views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

George Egg: Anarchist Cook
Soho Theatre
20th May 2016


George Egg

Photography provided by the Soho Theatre

We've all done it, haven't we? Liberated those teeny tiny bottles of shampoo and sad-looking sachets of instant coffee, rationalising our clearly irrational desire to hunt out such objects and slide them into our suitcases as some kind of entitlement built into the room price. As strange and commonplace as it might be to survey a hotel room for anything that isn't nailed down and to consider how socially acceptable it would be to take half its contents with us, comedian George Egg goes even further and looks around for anything he can cook with. Kettle, check, iron, check, trouser press, check. The day that Egg performs to a room full of hotel cleaners is the day he meets Humpty Dumpty's fate.

George Egg: Anarchist Cook is less of a comedy show and more of an hour-long cookery demonstration by someone who happens to be an established standup. With all the presence and insanity of a TV chef gone rogue, Egg shows us how to prepare a three-course meal using only things you can find in your average hotel room. From a pure culinary and scientific perspective, this is thoroughly fascinating. It's also a lot more personal and playful than the likes of Rick Stein Live, so if you're interested in food, this is a joyful way to spend 60 minutes.

When it comes to Egg's cooking, you simply cannot fault the amount of effort, planning and skill that has gone into it. This isn't the sort of show you can just wing. The use of pre-recorded material is well thought out, both introducing Egg and allowing him to take a break. All the pre-service kitchen prep is spot on. However, regretfully, Egg's comedic material doesn't land nearly as well as his pancakes. The running gag about what's in his hotel bathroom barely gets any acknowledgement or recognition, although possibly some of this is due to the poor sound when Egg is off-stage setting up the initial joke - it's one minor lapse in tech which costs him dearly for the rest of the night.

Although forks are handed to everyone on the way in, there is no actual in-show food tasting, which is somewhat of an anticlimax. I can understand how Egg might find the idea of his audience passing around plates disruptive, but I think it would actually help bring up the energy levels and audience engagement. Too often did he have to verbally prompt his crowd for some deserved applause - bribing them with food would be a far smarter way of ensuring their compliance. Furthermore, simple facts are that it's hard to heckle when your mouth is full of fish and a late night gig always brings out a few rowdy patrons.

Egg is an affable chap who always keeps his audience entertained, if not constantly cracking up. His quirky concept is a breath of fresh air on the comedy circuit and I'd happily risk life and limb to see him in action again. (If you have a nut allergy, word to the wise, avoid the front. There may be some airborne hazelnuts at one point.) Slightly bonkers, but that's what the best of the fringe is all about.

George Egg: Anarchist Cook ran from 20th to 21st May 2016 at the Soho Theatre.

Nearest tube station: Tottenham Court Road (Northern, Central)

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