Presented by: Pocket Atlas
Reviewed by: Marissa Ker
2 brilliant performers – one Brennan Campbell and one Billy Stewart-Keed
1 kitchen (with everything but the kitchen sink) – cupboard, refrigerator, pots, pans, wine glasses (muffin trays optional)
Slick sound and lighting setup
1 chef’s hat
1 dress (for mother character)
1 neighbour’s dog barking (optional)
Prepare by writing and rehearsing together. First, start with spoof on Iron Chef – the grandfather of Master Chef. Add one cup of ‘dream cooking’ presented by a neurotic chef tellingly named Robert Mapleheart. Stir liberally with humour and season with dramatic tension. Include surprise appearance by chef’s mother (wearing dress – see above). Select words carefully to create essence of Canadian wilderness. Combine with a tragic tale of gay lovers. Rehearse to perfection. Serve in a garage in Upper Mount Gravatt. Spice with optional neighbour’s dog barking.
The Abominable Autumn begins with a burst of energy as the MC (played by Billy Stewart-Keed) asks audience members to cheer for the first live studio recording of Iron Chef. Almost immediately, things become surreal when a chef (played by Brennan Campbell) emerges from the cupboard and leads a group cook class with Lobster Bisque with ‘a 3-finger pinch of oregano’. A theme of hunting develops as the chef explains his inspiration by a caribou and speciality in cooking game. He proceeds to cook his signature dish: Caribou with Saskatoonberry and cream cheese sauce. Billy’s impersonation of a caribou is one of the stand-out moments of the play.
The layers of meaning continue to stack up as the show progresses. The 2 actors play at least 6 different characters. The TV cooking show provides a doorway to the second story within this show: David, who is obsessed with watching Iron Chef. He met his boyfriend online through a series of deceits. By the end of the show, David has been questioned about his boyfriend’s death in the woods. The same woods from whence the caribou came. Infuriatingly, it is not clear exactly whodunnit. A gorilla made a mysterious appearance at the end.
The acting in this show is flawless. The performers draw apply their considerable physical theatre skills to great effect and combine them with fine facial expression and vocal quality. Campbell speaks in different accents with aplomb. The show could be improved by intertwining the 2 stories earlier and making the resolution of each clearer for the audience. Pocket Atlas intends to further develop this show in both Australia and Canada. They are onto something good.