Alex Mullarky reviews ‘MEAT’ by Tim Foley, 15th March 2012
Rating: 5/5 stars
I’ve never given a production five stars before and I don’t do it lightly, nor because I happen to know the writer/director Tim Foley. No other rating would have been fair. I hope in the next few paragraphs I can do justice to the production and convince the many readers who won’t have been able to secure a ticket for the play (which sold out in a matter of hours) why exactly I haven’t been able to fulfil my usual task of flaw-finding.
We met outside the Barron, dressed for dinner. A PhD student studying the intricacies of male behaviour (played by David Patterson) met us there to discuss his studies on ‘Male Expression and Animal Tendencies’ (M.E.A.T.) before leading us to the clubhouse of The Catherine’s Club, an elite, all-male university club. As we walked into the foyer of what was in fact the Scores Hotel we were greeted by a concierge-figure (Foley himself) who checked our invitations and complimented the ladies on their very effective drag.
Charlie Moon then made his appearance at the top of the staircase, hands hidden in leather gloves, and told us all a story about an ancient Thailand tribe whose determination to preserve ‘the rules of the gods’ led them to flay their leader alive. At the end of the tale he gestured to the bar. ‘You’ll join us for dinner, won’t you?’
In the bar two committee members discussed an unspecified dilemma over drinks. They were soon joined by a young ‘béjant’ who was to act as witness to their intentions, and a man in drag serving them drinks, since the rules specify firstly that members of the club must be waited on by women, and secondly, that women are banned from the club. The tension was tangible when president Charlie Moon entered; shortly after, we were escorted through to the dining room, where the committee members took their seats for dinner.
The hour that followed was one of the most tense and unsettling hours I’ve experienced, as a delicate power struggle was played out between Moon (Jasper Lauderdale) and the vice president, Callum King (Will Moore). In their attempt to oust their president, King and Archives Officer Stanley Higley (Jon Greenaway) seem as though they are gaining the upper hand – underestimating their enigmatic president.
I don’t wish to give any more away and spoil what is an extraordinarily intriguing and unpredictable play. Jasper Lauderdale as Charlie Moon was simply perfect. His slow, calculated speech and unnerving half-smiles were unforgettable. The entire cast were utterly immersed in their roles. Sitting in the eerily red-lit restaurant of the Scores Hotel watching these characters quietly battling over their meal, it was difficult to remember you weren’t actually in the clubhouse of a centuries-old society, observing a committee meeting (despite what some members of the English department will argue about the suspension of disbelief).
So a fully deserved five stars to Foley’s incredible play. I can only hope it will soon be reincarnated for those who weren’t quick enough to reserve a ticket this time round.
Image credit – Renata Grasso