“Brave diners…trust us”
Gastronauts is a self-identified “ theatre adventure with food and music”, a label that calls to mind Lyn Gardner’s timely blog on finding new names for alternative theatre, but the key word that reveals its nature, in my opinion, is devised. Writers April De Angelis and Nessah Muthy with director Wils Wilson have created this show in collaboration with a company of five, and as it explores the not inconsiderable topic of food and our multi-faceted relationship with it, plus serving up a range of varied nibbles to illustrate their point, the 95 minute running time seems scarcely sufficient.
For as the show touches on all of its talking points, there is barely the time to delve into them in anything but the most glancing manner. The catastrophic environmental effects of our more extravagant eating habits, the vicissitudes of the diet industry, the reality of what goes into processed foods like white bread, the profiteering that exploits those who grow much of our foodstuffs and also more benevolent aspects, like the comforting memories that food from the family table inspires in us even as we become adults.
We’re seated in the Royal Court upstairs space, which has been reconfigured in Lizzie Clachan into some kind of space-age craft complete with revolving stools and brightly coloured pre-flight drinks and so the vignettes are presented almost as an in-flight cabaret revue. Consequently nothing lingers too long but likewise nothing digs deep enough. With the addition of Blumenthal-style misleading food being served during the show – don’t worry, nothing is compulsory – the ambition of Gastronauts is plain to see but it does end up sprawling to cover as much as it can at the expense of making us really think.