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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

FOOD, at The Lawler, Southbank Theatre - 90 minutes, with no interval

One of the most remarkable interactive theatrical experiences I have had, FOOD is about the palate, gluttony, sleight of hand and so much more.

 

As you enter the theatre, you are confronted by a huge square table, around which 30 people are seated on three sides. Further tiered theatrical seating is also available. Suffice to say, all seats are close to the action that is about to unfold.

 

On the table is a white tablecloth, a red runner, wine glasses, plates, knives, forks and spoons. A massive chandelier is positioned above it.

 

Alongside an elegant, red walled backdrop with wall mounted lights on either side sits a small serving table, on which sits wine ready to be poured.

Photos by Maria Baranova


After lighting a candle, creator, performer and co-director Geoff Sobelle, who acts as host, asks us to close our eyes.

 

He wants us to relax, soak in the atmosphere and listen to extraneous sounds.

 

He asks us what our last prepared meal was, whether we enjoyed it and to think of all the hands it passed through to get to us.

 

Then his mellifluous voice takes us on a journey back to when we were born and beyond, to the dawn of civilisation – from the ocean, to the forest to the fields.

 

Apron on, Sobelle – with the help of a few other attendees – pours each person around the table a glass of wine.

A number of dinner party guests are prevailed upon to read the wine list, which is hardly conventional. Much laughter ensues. In fact, orchestrated table “readings” are just some of FOOD’s many highlights.

 

Sobelle asks many present – one by one – to nominate their favourite food.

 

He invites several of those seated around the table to look at the dinner menu and select what they would like.

 

It is at that point that things start to derail as the chef adopts a farm to plate mentality.

 

I am not about to spoil the surprise by elaborating on this point any further, other than to say it involves comic genius.

 

After collecting the wine glasses and uneaten food and thanking guests for their patronage in his own special way, Sobelle proceeds to indulge in his meal.

 

When I say indulge, binge eating and drinking aren’t the half of it.

 

What Sobelle manages to “consume”, with the help of some magic, is sickening.

 

Satiated, he clears the table, again unconventionally. If only it was so easy after a large dinner party.

 

It is at this point that the show takes another unexpected turn. Suffice to say, buffalo’s roam free, seeds are sown, oil is struck and capitalism is in full swing.

 

Wow! FOOD is astonishing, provocative and so much fun. In a word, it is brilliant.

 

Sobelle is a poetic illusionist and master clown from New York.

 

His ability to shock seems to know no bounds, as the performance readily morphs into the totally unexpected, loopy and mesmerising.

 

He combines slapstick with sensory time travel and a surreal sizzle.

 

There is biting satire about human greed.

 

FOOD is a cavalcade of creativity, in which sight and sound play a critical role.

 

As I left the theatre, I wanted to sing out to passers-by bto savour the experience that I had just witnessed, for it is mighty special – unique, in fact.

 

FOOD is an unforgettable delight, an absurd meditation on human consumption, co-created by magician Steve Cuiffo and co-directed by Lee Sunday Evans.

 

It is on at The Lawler, Southbank Theatre, as part of the RISING Festival, until 8th June, 2024.


For more information and to buy tickets, go to https://2024.rising.melbourne

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