Emily Harris heads to The Bike Shed Theatre to see their magical new Christmas drama
A dynamic story about the culinary wasteland of wartime Exeter and a magical golden whisk – why? Why not.
For anyone who has tired of the it’s-behind-you’s and the oh-yes-she-did’s the festive season brings – The Bike Shed Theatre and Wardrobe Ensemble have co-created a play which is as quintessentially British as any panto, but with a hell of a lot more class.
Taking place in Exeter gem, The Bike Shed, the stage itself is warm, inviting and wonderfully simple. There are very few props, and those that are used are employed creatively throughout the production. The intimate theatre space and rustic setting compliment this simplicity perfectly – as the play proves to us, it’s about not how much we have, but how we cook up the things we have already.
The play is beautifully scripted, following the story of Arthurs, a struggling restaurant in Exeter that receives an opportune visit from Parisian refugee Eloise (Jesse Meadows). It isn’t too long before her exquisite cooking abilities are revealed and she turns the restaurant around, one SPAM fritter at a time. However, upon discovering the Golden Whisk, Eloise finds herself on a quest for bizarre ingredients before it’s too late. Of course, we meet a lot of eccentric characters on the way, witness a blossoming romance and get a few musical numbers to liven the pace.
Oh, the musical numbers! A song about queuing? Yes please. There’s a glorious satirical edge to the show, as it oozes the polite British stereotype in the most charming of ways. Our hero, Arthur, is awkwardness personified, and throughout the plot I found myself identifying with his rigid ways and aversion to expressing emotion. This is the perfect contrast to Eloise’s passionate outbursts and efforts to add a little spice to everything she does. It is a show that largely employs the use of stereotypes, which can either be charming or uncomfortable. Luckily, I was bloody charmed.
A song about queuing? Yes please!
It is all a little bit of fun. There are lots of jokes, lots of laughs, many coming from the eccentric Grandma Baggins (Hanora Kamen), who has a hen on hand to deliver eggs when necessary. Rations – who needs them? However, the quest Eloise takes to relieve herself of the curse of the Golden Whisk materialises into something much greater. She must show strength and courage and eventually face the demons of her violent past in Paris. Meadows crafts Eloise into an immensely likeable, relatable and hilarious character, without forgetting her sensitivity and anxieties. It is this skill, coupled with the talented performance of her co-actors that creates a truly enjoyable spectacle.
So whilst pantos are taking over the Christmas season, why don’t you whisk yourself away to something a little bit different? One thing: you might find you have a slight craving for bread and butter pudding afterwards.