views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Quiche
Etcetera Theatre
5th August 2016

★★★★☆

Publicity photograph for Quiche

Photography provided by the Camden Fringe

There's something rather delicious about this play, and I don't mean the eponymous Quiche. No, that looks dreadful, I don't want to touch that. Jenny (Ella Turk-Thompson) and her partner John (Mike Williams) are about to proposition John's colleague Jake (Frank McHugh) and his partner Jo (Ellie Mason). John is sold on the idea, Jake isn't against it, Jenny is reluctant but desperate to please John and Jo is, well, just drunk. That's a lot of Js and given none of them seem to be in the same place emotionally, that's a recipe for disaster. John however can't stop thinking about the idea of sleeping with his mate's missus and is delighted with Jenny's seemingly tacit acceptance. Apparently he's brand spanking new to human interactions, because the look on Jenny's face is obviously part-heartbreak, part-disappointment and part-fear. He sees right past that.

All four characters have white collar jobs, stable but not perfect relationships, and a predilection for BOGOF supermarket wine. Essentially, they could be anyone. Writer and director Frank McHugh makes the characters relatable in order to challenge our ideas around monogamy and morality, asking what if anything is right. Different people will watch the exact same performance of Quiche and walk away assigning blame to a different person. Maybe John's at fault for even coming up with the idea in the first place. Perhaps Jenny should have said no if she wasn't that keen on it. And so on. The premise is nothing if not provocative and gets a rather interesting conversation started.

Out of the four protagonists, Jake is probably the least fleshed out, but we do get enough of a sense about his character in order to understand his place in the story, and for this lack of development to be unimportant. The characterisation for the most part is truly excellent, and our focus is elsewhere anyway. It's John and Jenny's relationship that is key to this play, as are the consequences of the indecent proposal. The way in which the characters all respond to the storyline is very credible, with the conclusion particularly heartfelt. We see some powerful emotions and are left to wonder if it was all worth it, or whether it's just not possible to have your quiche and eat it.

Despite the seriousness of this piece and what it explores, it's predominantly funny. Mason brings a lot of the humour as a child-hating teacher with a tendency to drink quickly and drink often, the comedy coming not only coming from her lines however from her realistic impression of someone who's rather the worse for wear. We see her inner self - after all, in vino veritas - and we also see a clown to laugh at. There's also a lot of recognisable humour in the way both couples are so dismissive of their partners, familiarity having long ago bred a healthy bit of contempt.

Quiche is a bittersweet comedy with some fantastic acting which manages to move, entertain and challenge. It's far more complex than its title suggest, with lots of tasty layers and subtleties. If this is what Lotus Productions can cook up, we're excited to see what they make next.

Quiche opened on 3rd August and runs until 7th August 2016 at the Etcetera Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)



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