5 Lesbians Eating A Quiche

Tue 24th – Sat 28th November 2015

reviews

Tom Whittaker

at 09:39 on 25th Nov 2015

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Having been given a sticker on the door informing me that I was to be known as ‘Mandy’ for the rest of the evening, I was a little apprehensive about what this show would entail. Surely, I thought, the title cannot be taken literally! It must just be one of those bizarre titles designed to pull in curious punters! As it turns out: no. The play literally revolves around the fetishisation of all things eggy and quichey, as the audience (all of whom were given name stickers like Mandy or Marilyn) join the five onstage lesbians in – of course – a nuclear bunker in a 1950s town somewhere in America’s mid-west.

After a few opening night nervous jitters, the play rattles along at breakneck speed. This is both a good and a bad thing: good because the play’s absurdism relies on this speed to sustain itself, and bad because it all gets rather overwhelming by the end. In an attempt to make each joke progressively funnier the play just gets progressively shoutier, until dialogue – whilst very funny – at times dissolves into a humongous yelling match across stage. Nonetheless, the show has impressive energy, and the cast (buoyed, no doubt, by the capacity crowd in the sold-out Corpus Playroom) sustain this energy throughout the whole performance, making for a laudably bombastic production.

‘5 Lesbians Eating A Quiche’ is a show demanding a wide range of emotional expression, from ridiculous silliness to homoerotic flirting, passing through paralytic fear as America is nuked by the (hushed whispers- remember, this is 1956) Communists. Fortunately, the cast dealt with this whole range with ease, slipping comfortably into their characters and growing in confidence as the show went on. Special mention should be given to Emma Blacklay-Piech’s ditzy, man-fearing Dale, who sacrificed herself on a mission to rescue more quiches for the other lesbians in the bunker. The whole cast, though, were superb, and one could tell that this was a production they immensely enjoyed being a part of. Of particular note were instances when things went wrong: a picture fell from the wall, a piece of quiche was dropped, and the nuclear bunker’s supposedly hermetically sealed door kept flapping in the breeze. Improvisation at these times was instantaneous and hilarious, providing some truly classic comedy moments such as Wren’s (Molly Stacey) run across stage to hold the bunker door shut.

At this point the lesbians, realising that they are the last ones left alive after the nuclear attack, are freed from the yoke of 1950s sexual oppression and come out. The fourth wall never really existed in this play, but at this point it totally evaporates as the audience engage in a call-and-response of coming out alongside the onstage actresses. This show’s usage of the Playroom is admirable; often plays simply begrudge or ignore the venue’s intimacy, squeeze themselves onto the smaller stage and carry on as before, but ‘5 Lesbians’ revels in the cramped, close environment and makes full use of the space. The audience happily participates in every stage of the performance (even the technical box comes under attack as an irate Dale storms in there to tell them what to do). The stilted social conventions of 1950s society continue to fall apart: no longer necessary after the destruction of society, the faux-politeness of the play’s opening fades into familiar joviality, whilst the characters begin opening up to one another about their past lives in a shift in attitude that is interesting to notice.

All in all, this play – whilst a little tiring to watch on account of the absurdism, nuclear war, and non-stop carnage – is eggcellent fun (there was no way this review was ever going to make it to the end without that pun: my apologies) and works supremely well in its venue.

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Joanna Taylor

at 09:43 on 25th Nov 2015

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Expectations for 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche were particularly high: an eye-catching name (to say the least) and a plot line based around nuclear armageddon in 1950s America made this a particularly intriguing proposal. I was not disappointed: this play is kooky, original, inclusive and a lot of fun- if The Help (2011 film) was hit by an atomic bomb and a sudden obsession with quiche, this would be the result.

The success of 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche came down to two factors. The first was its audience participation. Usually a squirm-worthy phenomenon saved for those brave enough to sit on the front row, in this production we were all involved as sisters and members of a secret lesbian club who meet to celebrate their foundress and sample meat-free quiche. Asked to chant ‘I am a lesbian’ (regardless of actual sexual persuasion- or gender) and given a name tag on first entering (my name was Shirley), entering this egg-worshipping world of repressed sexuality was made surprisingly easy.

The second factor in this show’s success was its humour. Laugh-out-loud moments came particularly from Lulie (Evie Butcher), the group’s militant leader, and Dale (Emma Blacklay-Piech) who, like all five girls, created comedy through a high-energy performance, perfect comedy timing and farcical facial expressions. Each girl had her own distinct character which was upheld and developed with fluency; funny, charming and pantomimic at times, I was kept onside throughout the play and found myself enjoying it immensely.

Despite this, 5 Lesbians Eating Quiche cannot be called technically brilliant. All too often the girls began shrieking hysterically- the comedic value of which has to be questioned- and did not always gel together, sometimes concentrating on their individual performances to the detriment of the overall cohesion. The set was very basic and there was not much variety within the production: all five characters are on the stage almost the entire time (which is fair enough considering an atomic bomb had exploded outside the door) but began to feel a little claustrophobic. The accents were also somewhat dubious: having assumedly grown up in the same 1950s farming town (aside from Ginny), the other four lesbians sounded as if they came from entirely different parts of America.

This is nit-picking, however, and means that my star-rating will sound overly harsh on this production as it is based on a combination of the play’s technical merit and how enjoyable it was rather than just the latter (which would be a guaranteed four or five). I also want to credit co-directors Elinor Lipman and Rhiannon Shaw for assembling such a charming performance, as well as producer Raniyah Qureshi and the rest of their team whose innovative use of lighting and sound contributed to, amongst other things, a hilarious re-enactment of a scene from Ghost (2011 musical).

The highlight of 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche was, for me, Ginny (Emma Kemsley-Pein) seizing the last surviving piece of quiche and devouring it in a semi-orgasmic manner whilst the other girls looked on- with horror, and perhaps a little titillation. If that sounds in any way appealing to you too, then I completely recommend this production to lesbians, non-lesbians, quiche-lovers and those yet to discover its divine properties. 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche is more than a play, it is the creation of a community, and there will be few other opportunities to see anything like it.

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