REVIEW: This Kitchen is Not Imaginary [The Basement]

Ben Anderson has a thing for kitchens

This Kitchen IS Not Imaginary [by Sharu Delilkan]

How imaginery is this Kitchen?

The action starts straight away with the main character ‘Man’ (Alex Walker) making a paper plane that he throws over the screen on the back of the stage. The fact that is got stuck in the ceiling, whether intentional or not, certainly loosened up the crowd from the get-go.

Man very soon is set upon by invisible spirits, alter egos, devils-to-fight, his conscience, ‘Puck’-like creatures that seem to mock him while being one-dimension removed from his real life.

Weird and unworldly vocalisations accompany these spirits which is somewhat unnerving at first but then strangely human, expressing a whole range of emotion as the stage movement occurs.

I resisted writing the word ‘challenging’ to justify my confusion.

But confusion there definitely was – which the crowd seemed to swallow hook, line and sinker. The spectacle of tenderness, shadow puppetry, self doubt, paper airplanes, strength, sharks, determination, boats, seduction, triffid-sirens and eventual normalcy obviously enthralled the opening night audience who I watched as much as the show. But I couldn’t help wondering would they get the same amount of infectious laughter or willingness to be open to the fluid narrative, if the audience that wasn’t primarily made up of arts practitioners.

I found my brain racing trying to make sense of it all – like those early moon-gazers that saw a man’s face in the moon I tried to construct intelligent themes of self doubt, isolation, fighting over demons, homosexuality and fear of rejection. Just like in the last century when everyone was convinced they saw canals on Mars, it was so easy to try to interpret and pretend to know. But to be honest in the end I realised it was okay that I really didn’t know.

So it was such a f*&^%ing relief when I read the programme I found on the counter as I left the theatre, which confirmed that the play was very much open to interpretation. In retrospect I am happy that I didn’t know that from the start because I wouldn’t have had all those emotions – confused, captivated, concerned, conscious, connected and I’m going to say it ‘challenged’ – there I said it!

The director Samantha Molyneux quoting an audience member couldn’t have put it better.

Watching This Kitchen is Not Imaginary “is exactly like reading a book” – it is a piece that allows you to come to your own conclusions.

So if you’re planning to see the show to get a run of the mill storyline then I would say don’t bother. But if you’re brave enough to let go and allow your imagination to run wild – you are in for a real treat.

The only clue I can give you about the plot is that owning seems to be a recurring theme – depicted in memorable likes such as “You don’t own me, I own you” and “I like men that own things”.

The innovative new play with moving and transforming sets, complex puppetry and beautiful physicality reaffirms the fact that theatre is one of the best platforms for pushing the boundaries.

First time playwright Ben Anderson should be commended for his bravery in not feeling that he has to conform. He takes a multitude of risks which includes incorporating amazing and seldom attempted constructed imagery woven into a strong, relevant story.

What the story is about? I will leave you to discover that. The beauty of it is that you can make of it what you will. That’s what made it interesting standing outside after the show listening to people’s various takes on what they thought they had observed.

Having a live sound designer and performer (Doron Von Trapp) on stage with piano and percussion instruments was a great extra layer, making him one of the eight characters in the play. The percussion music provided great punctuation to the show, a bit like the “clang-clang” sound in Law and Order that separate the scenes.

And I must add here that I really loved the use of the mini xylophone – something I haven’t seen or heard for yonks. To be honest the last time I saw it played live was probably in the late 1980s at an American jazz fusion band Spyro Gyra’s concert – but I digress.

The acting in This Kitchen is Not Imaginary of the ensemble cast – Phoebe Borwick, Jessie Rose McCall, Jonathan P. Riley, Jeremy Rodmell, Nathan Tunbridge, Alex Walker, Caleb Wright – is exemplary as is the creative nature of the piece. Although not for the faint hearted, I can attest to the fact that it’s well worth it.

This Kitchen is Not Imaginary plays at Basement Theatre until 14 April. See more info at Basement Theatre

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