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Review: MEAT

Review: MEAT

Review: MEAT cover photo on Stagedoor
Max (India Mullen) and Ronan (Sean Fox) were in a relationship while they were teenagers at college.

Now he’s a chef and co-owner, with maître d’ Jo (Elinor Lawless), of a Dublin nose to tail restaurant. The boy from the wrong side of the tracks has done well for himself so he’s eager to show off when Max turns up at the restaurant one-night years after they last met.

But this isn’t just an instance of old friends catching up. Max is a successful blogger who is just about to have a memoir published, and she is here like a ghost from the past to tell Ronan that he is going to be in her book, and she is going to tell the world about the night he raped her.

Gillian Greer’s Meat is a play of real muscle which over several courses interrogates consent, the past and its lasting impact, and reminds that life is very messy. For Max, what happened on that night at a college party, has been part of her life. Every day. Ronan claims not to recall it at all, but is he lying? Is Ronan a monster or a good man who did a shit thing? Why is Max choosing this moment to go public?

Photos by Alex Brenner

All this is thrown into the pot and left to simmer in 80 gripping minutes in which perspectives, sympathies and even time itself shifts. There is a brilliant moment in the production where a kiss occurs, and you are not quite sure whether it is taking place in the present or the past or that the former is an echo of the other.

The restaurant setting is clever too. A restaurant is a public place, and like theatre a place of spectacle. In Rachel Stone’s design carcasses of meat glisten at the back of the stage, as the play progresses even the way food is pressed upon Max becomes part of the dynamic. The room becomes smeared with foie gras, and lines come back to haunt whether it is about a couple in love or free-range ducks stuffing themselves silly, or a restaurant policy that allows no “additions, omissions or substitutions.”

Greer’s play is endlessly smart in the way it subverts the rom-com genre and explores the complexities of consent and also the legacies of trauma. Who gets stuffed and who doesn’t? How the bill manifests itself. The extenuations that may provide an explanation but can never be an excuse.

Its masterstroke is not just to show us Max and Ronan but also to offer Jo, a woman with an interest in what happens, in more ways than one. In her black dress and scarped back hair Jo is a curiously compelling and ambiguous figure, almost like a Greek chorus, definitely a witness, and maybe a judge too.

This is a tense, knotty, lean forward in your seat play and the densities of the script are neatly handled by director Lucy Jane Atkinson and a superb cast. I savoured every morsel.

Meat plays at Theatre503 until 14 March

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Written by

Lyn Gardner

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