23-30 Aug, 1330 (1405) @ Hill Street Theatre
By Danielle Farrow
Chow Mein is an entertaining look at a couple in a “comfortable” relationship finally moved to question themselves individually within it. Beth Godfrey and Steve McMahon act with great style and confidence, physical flourish and fine detail, and the play proves an enjoyable way to spend 35 minutes.
The set is intriguing from the start – a table and two chairs with a large fridge in the corner covered with colourful, children’s magnetic letters. The kitchen / dining setting makes sense and the fridge is put to good use, integral to the storytelling, but those eye-catching, intriguing letters are not only ignored, they do not in fact reflect what we learn of the woman whose kitchen this is. If that is because they are related to the man instead, this should be made clear – otherwise they are left as interesting décor which does not fit the characters, as if it is merely an isolated design idea unrelated to the play. This is unfortunate when detail has gone into nuances of performance, particularly with regard to physical humour, which is often given just the right space to breathe.
The characters are well-realised and have aspects to which many people can relate, but they are also not particularly attractive. Also, the relationship itself, how they really connect to each other, receives less attention than might be expected. The abrupt style of language at the start takes a bit of getting used to, but does work and develop, and monologues to the audience allow glimpses into inner thoughts that build well. The element of surprise is very effectively incorporated in the storytelling devices, and the audience is treated to funny, if sometimes clichéd, antics on stage.
Chow Mein is a highly accomplished acting piece, with humour and style and some fine storytelling techniques. Hill Street offers a couple of these short food-related comedies (see also Dinner for One) alongside their full-length fare, and they make for enjoyable ways to sample the Fringe in mini-bites.