Visual theatre is a tricky thing. It can be extraordinarily compelling, but equally it can leave you feeling like the person in the group who didn’t quite get the joke. It’s undoubtedly an even trickier prospect when filmed and presented online.
Today I Bake is the first production created by emergent theatre company Lotus Stone, and is appearing digitally as part of the MANIPULATE festival. Devised and performed by founder, Sarah Cosgrove, it opens with a woman dressed in white in a white kitchen. She carefully puts on a white apron and begins her preparations.
The set itself is nicely detailed – this is a costly kitchen with Philippe Starck chairs and retro appliances. Precisely what she’s preparing is never entirely clear, though a boiled egg, a Nutribullet, several roses, a sharp knife, and a possible anatomical feature all play a part. She tunes in her radio, adjusts her apron and she’s off.
There’s a vaguely hypnotic quality to Cosgrove’s movement as she works around the clinically stark space. She is considered, methodical, precise. Is she preparing a meal or is she plotting revenge? The phone rings periodically – accented by a pink lamp atop a cupboard, a lone splash of colour amidst the white. Alberto Santos Bellido’s lighting design is impressive: bright white through to all the shades of pink sliding into a sinister carmine at points.
A man (Dylan Read) slithers from behind the kitchen counter, zipped up in a body bag, and proceeds to take a place at the kitchen table. There’s a clear tension between the pair but their relationship so unclear that ultimately, the piece simply feels exasperating as a result.
When the phone is finally answered, we hear a tiny tinny voice repeating ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ until the receiver is replaced. And there may be overtones of the Grimm story in this piece – it could be depicting a couple ravaged with grief, dealing with the loss of their child. The final feast could be an exploration of the emasculation of man. Or it could be a bunch of ideas that don’t quite hang together in an accessible narrative. It’s food for thought but could do with a lot more seasoning before a repeat match.
MANIPULATE runs from 27 Jan – 7 Feb 2021