‘Trash Cuisine’ is the latest offering from Eastern European outlaws Belarus Free Theatre, and represents a widening of scope after last year’s Young Vic show ‘Minsk 2011’, which focussed solely on the exiled company’s home country.
Performed mostly in English, with Western actors leading the cast, ‘Trash Cuisine’ is a revue of sorts, a kaleidoscopic series of stylistically diverse shorts drawing gristly attention to torture, genocide and use of the death penalty the world over. It’s also marked by a sardonic sense of humour, with Philippe Spall’s ghoulish character ‘Chef’ presenting the evening as a macabre cookery demonstration.
When it works, it’s mesmerically upsetting: an early scene, in which a Thai and a Belarussian executioner idly talk shop is blood-chillingly understated; the sequence in which a Hutu woman describes her Tutsi husband’s butchery of their children while Spall chops and fries a steak behind them is a masterclass in visceral horror.
But the show lacks focus, with some sections totally misfiring, while the humour feels forced. And the exact overall intent is a little hazy: there is the hint of a subtext about the redemptive power of art, but as it stands 'Trash Cuisine’ is a somewhat arbitrary, oddly un-immediate parade of atrocities from the last 40 years, with no clear message beyond offering an incomplete reflection of humanity at its worst .
It’s a fierce and fascinating evening, but as this once underground company spends more and more time in the mainstream, a spot more dramaturgy wouldn’t go amiss.
By Andrzej Lukowski