Summerhall, Cairns Lecture Theatre
Lionel the Lion is a lion with a dream; he wants to become a vegetarian. However, he has just eaten a human, Mamoru, with whom he forms a friendship as Mamoru sits in his stomach awaiting his inevitable digestion. As Mamoru and Lionel talk to each other, and to Suzi who (alongside other characters) teaches Lionel about food, digestion and nutrition, the audience is taken on a bizarre and unexpected exploration of how, why and what we consume in Eaten, developed by Mamoru Iriguchi.
This show presents some interesting theatrical ideas and raises intriguing questions, but ultimately its overall approach and the conclusions it drew left me with numerous questions. The production explored the well-worn phrase “you are what you eat” in a more literal sense than perhaps it was initially intended. The conclusion the show comes to seems to run along the lines of: once something or someone has been eaten, it or they live on as a parts of whatever creature did the eating, this is the natural order and it is acceptable, or even commendable to eat other animals as they have another life beyond the digestive juices of their consumer. It is an interesting concept to explore, and building an awareness of what we consume is important, but overall as a play billed at ages 6+, it is a rather confusing production that creates more questions than it answers. This can be seen in the use of puppets which appear from the stomachs of the characters as characters such as Conceptual Cow and Conceptual Mamoru. While this is a fun dramatic technique and bred some amusing lines, it is (as demonstrated by the small voice that piped up from the front rows to ask her mother what the word “conceptual” meant) perhaps a technique which required its audience to have a bit more experience and knowledge than is within the reach of the younger members of the audience. On the flipside, when the performers were delivering facts and information themselves, their delivery was often stilted, exacerbated by the fact that many lines were read directly from the script, creating a sense of detachment from the audience and each other.
That said, the audience were in stitches at many points; with audience members recruited as other animals, a performer playing a poo, and a giant lion costume full of surprises, the physical and scatological humour abounds. For the older members of the audience, some of the jokes that may not land with the young target audience are entertaining and smart, playing with a sense of self-awareness on the part of the performers.
Eaten is a production which, though it introduces intriguing ideas and delivers some strong comedy, potentially overloads its young target audience with concepts and over-stretches its possibilities for exploration of the topics it tackles in the short period of time available.
Eaten runs until 27th August as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.