Spread @ Greenwich Playhouse, London

devised by
Andrea Turner, Suzie Lowe and Jenny Maynard

I’ve always been suspicious of dieting. Its just so apologetic, so retiring – like retreating backwards from life, on tiptoe, shutting the door behind you, terrified of infringing upon another’s space, another’s oxygen. Dieting is for the acquiescent, and Hourglass the three-strong company responsible for Spread have vindicated my sense of outrage.

More specifically, Spread is concerned with womankind’s relationship to food a relationship exposed in a series of avant-garde, comic sketches. There is great emphasis here on variety and fluidity, with nods to music-hall tradition and synchronised dance. The use of music and sound-effects provided here by Ryan Harding is a real driving force, and quickens the pulse.

Inevitably, the play lacks true rhetorical structure it is an amalgam, a jumble of ideas. Whilst there is a strong unitary theme and Hourglass are very much focussed on the issues, a laser-beam reversing through a telescope there isn’t really an argument as such, a debate; Spread is a touch too polemical in its striving for politics, and Im certain some will feel uncomfortable with the extremes.

But extremes make for good theatre. Whilst the scenarios are devoid of characters in the conventional sense, the approximations they do provide are fascinating. Sitting on a set of bathroom scales, a silent, compunctive girl munches through two packets of crisps; homogenous homemakers do battle with flour; an enraged husband snatches a book from his wife’s hand and replaces it, didactically, atop her head.

Most memorable of all is the finalé. Reduced to the level of automata, the trio dress themselves provocatively and smear themselves in syrup, offering themselves up to the audience for consumption.

The cast are inexhaustible, and there is love on their contorted faces. Unfortunately, its not quite enough to hold these disparate elements together though little else could seemingly be done.

The audience seemed a little unsure as how to reconcile the loose ends, a little tentative in their spectatorship; we laughed along regardless, nervously at first perhaps, but soon warming to the surrealism of it all.

Rousseau said that to be governed by appetite alone is slavery, and the struggle against social and biological determinism animates this production. What Spread lacks in resolution is more than made up in fun, and theres plenty in there to relate to. Look out for Hourglass in the future.

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