A review by Pauline Flannery for EXTRA! EXTRA!






Theatre 503 and Fall Out Theatre present




Graham Turner (Vincent) in Meat at Theatre 503

Photo by Damian Robertson


by Jimmy Osborne


Directed by David Aula


5 – 30 June 2012



Set amidst B&Q kitchen cabinets, white-tiled sterile walls with ominous serving hatch and savage dashes of red in the mugs, slippers and discarded overalls and boots, Vincent addresses the audience. He extols the efficiency of meat-cleaving and production line mass-killing, abattoir-style. Vincent is a slaughter-man. Yet he has lost his way - in his marriage, his job and in his sense of duty. 

The killing of seventeen year Rob, local thug and misfit, and Vincent’s inter-relations with his family, particularly his wife Joy, form the backbone of Wakefield-born Jimmy Osborne’s first full length play, Meat, at Theatre 503. Its backdrop is the community. Sometimes this is shown to be atavistic in its blood-thirst for justice, sometimes nurturing in its spontaneous outbursts to do good.

Joy is part of this hierarchy. Yet actor Tracey Brabin, appears more at home in the Ayckbourn/Leigh bitter-sweet moments, such as Rob’s funeral, which provide rich pickings for comic, social observation. The real difficulty is in the arc of Joy and Vincent’s relationship (a game Graham Turner). Neither quite gets to grips with the overlapping dialogue and thought processes behind Osborne’s elaborate text, and sometimes the action is either under-powered or over-wound.

Yet Joy and her daughter Carla, a sugar-consuming, coke-guzzling, mouthy teenager, excellently played by Charlotte Whitaker, are rooted firmly within the community network, representing both youth and middle age. While on its periphery, with an increased sense of dislocation, are the men: Vincent, Rob - an edgy, menacing, loping Ian Weichardt, and the off-stage character Chrissy Hinton who is arrested for his murder.

Meat is a play about power: in might, status and annihilation. The inextricably linked narratives of Rob and Vincent are told in a series of flashbacks, presenting varied shifts in balance and tension. The climax to these offers a genuine plot-twist which is dramatically satisfying. Yet there are times when the intervening action feels over-extended or over-formatted, with too many inter-cut scenes. It’s as if Osborne can’t quite trust himself or his material. He should. For the actual writing, the content is peppered by sharp observations and one-liners. Vincent likens the community to ‘pigs at a trough’ or ‘anaemic with grief’ - fitting language for a slaughter-man, while the location shifts effortlessly between the kitchen, the slaughterhouse and the outside.

Violence hangs in the air throughout. The set, skilfully realised by Jimmy Cotterill, is a sickening mix of utility and sterility, hooks and knives, helped by a faulty strip lighting effect by Elliot Griggs which creates a crackling intensity and an abrasive sound score by Edward Lewis, as pigs squeal and rats scuttle. Meat is about the town, the people, ascendancy, revenge, making the first move, rats, conditioning, behaviour and moral vision when all around is shifting sand.

This is a place where you don’t think, you just act, a place where space opens up to say sorry, a place of Judas kisses and touches of warmth, of possession - a place where death replaces feet of clay with angel’s wings…   

Tracy Brabin (Joy), Charlotte Whitaker (Carla) and Graham Turner (Vincent) in Meat at Theatre503
Photo by Damian Robertson
Theatre 503
503 Battersea Park Road
Tues – Sat 7.45, Sun 5.00
Tickets: £9, £14
Box Office: 020 7978 7040

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