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Fully Committed (Menier Chocolate Factory)

The Menier celebrate ten years with the play that put the Southwark venue on the map

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Kevin Bishop in Fully Committed at the Menier Chocolate Factory
© Francis Loney

In 2004, shortly after David Babani and Danielle Tarento opened the Menier Chocolate Factory, a one-man comedy by American playwright Becky Mode put the venue on the map, that play was Fully Committed. A decade later, and to celebrate the milestone, the production is back.

Comedian Kevin Bishop takes the spotlight as Sam, a struggling actor who works in a dead end job answering the perpetually ringing reservation line in the basement of a swanky restaurant. His only distractions are a long-shot audition and the chance to go home for Christmas.

If the Menier is the table that the audience sit at then Mode's script is the crockery upon which Bishop skilfully carves and serves up a veritable smorgasbord of characters. From coked up Aussie Bryce whose rider for Naomi Campbell stretches to lightbulb changes and an all-vegan tasting menu for 15 people, to French Maitre d' Jean Claude who has an uncontrollable gag reflex whenever the name Carolann Rosenstein-Fishburn is mentioned. Bishop plays over 40 characters and whilst some may be just silly caricatures, others are instantly recognisable and all are identifiably disparate.

The show - which comes in at 70 minutes without an interval - flies by at blistering speed, Bishop's breakneck performance, whilst slightly dizzying at times, is a real tour de force and, dare I say, his impeccable timing and ability to mimic the largest and smallest characters of the world we inhabit remind me of a young Robin Williams.

Another inspired decision is the choice of director, Mark Setlock, who played Sam in the 2004 production. With the exception of its writer, no one knows Fully Committed better than Setlock, and that deep affinity with the play is glaringly obvious in his staging and execution.

Once word gets out about Bishop's virtuoso performance, getting a ticket is going to be harder than booking table 37 on a Saturday night. So pick up your phone and call the Menier now, but be prepared to be placed on hold.

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