Review by Paul Nelson
WITH a sizeable following and cult status, Cartoon de Salvo returned to Battersea Arts Centre for a Christmas season lasting until January 6 with their show Meat and Two Veg.
The evening is one of controlled hysteria.
Five people comprise Cartoon de Salvo. Alex Murdoch (Artistic Director), with David Bernstein and Brian Logan as Associate Directors. These three are also the performers. In addition, you can add the considerable talents of Craig Byrne (Resident Sound Designer) and Becky Hurst (Resident Designer).
None of them, I have to warn you, is sane.
However, their insanity is an object lesson to much calmer and less adventurous persons of the theatre, because what they touch with their manic minds and hands turns into pure golden entertainment.
It is an utterly mad evening, preceded by an almost childish prank with an
aeroplane and a ship, which results in the ship being sent to the bottom of
the sea. The three performers run through suburban tea parties constantly
nagged by the noisy neighbours but more nagged by the thought that the daughter,
Violet, is 'not right'.
Indeed she isn't.
The mad progression runs into the plot of Twelfth Night. Here we have Orson,
chumming up with Vince who is leading a double life, twinned with that of
Orson is in love with an image of Olive and he fell for her watching her undress nightly, Peeping Tom fashion, as she disrobes for bed.
Orson cajoles Vinnie to take his terrible poems to Olive, and, if you know the plot, it then follows the Twelfth Night formula.
Running through this zany evening are some equally delightfully unhinged songs which are performed by the trio on guitar, washboard and bass (made from a tea chest) which actually produces some palatable sounds.
When the shipwrecked sailors turn up the usual mistaken identities plot takes place, but, remarkably, the whole denouement is fantastically produced by the three performers. How they achieve this is a comic stroke of genius that I swear you would not believe and anyway has to be seen to appear even credible. It is a fabulous way to end the play.
I find it is not really right to call it a play come to think of it. It is an evening of such seemingly uncontrolled ferment that the word doesn't actually fit the goings on.
For example, completely unexpectedly, the cast announce a tea break. A trolley is wheeled on and they serve tea, biscuits and 'fancies' to the audience. If by this point you are not already delirious, fear not, even more jolly japes and lunacy are to follow.
The audience revelled in the party game, in which alas they were not invited to take part, called 'Bite the Biscuit'. It's a bit like 'Pass the Parcel' or 'Postman's Knock' but gets down to the nitty gritty in such a glorious manner that I can see it becoming all the rage before long. Lock up your daughters!
I cannot recommend this evening out with three nut cases highly enough. The cast have as much fun with the goings on as the audience, their enjoyment is infectious and I suspect the audiences' enjoyment infects them too. It's a two-way thing and I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
Meat and Two Veg. Devised by Cartoon de Salvo. Directed by Alex Murdoch, Setting designed by Becky Hurst, Lighting Designer Doug Kurht, Original Music by Craig Byrne, and Lyrics by Brian Logan. Developed at BAC by Cartoon de Salvo. Presented at BAC, Battersea Old Town Hall, Lavender Hill, London SW11. 020 7223 2223. With David Bernstein, Brian Logan, Alex Murdoch.