Fernando and Zaccarini, Philomena’s Feast

Review in Issue 13-2 | Summer 2001

Philomena's Feast begins as a spoof TV cooking show. Bouffoned hair, a fifties dress and pleasingly cheesy smile, Paschale Straiton as Philomena demonstrates the making of a chicken pie, à la Fanny Craddock, and in verse. She animates the onion and skinned chicken before stuffing it. From a cupboard come the coloured liquids that effervesce when combined. She then does that Jekyll and Hyde thing and enters the dark side of cooking – off air of course. Philomena creates two lives from skins of chickens and other bits. John-Paul Zaccarini and Gisele Edwards are born aloft, in a construction in the air. They come to life and have suitable baby movements and play little games. The fourth performer is Simon Mitchell, who acts as the stage manager of the TV show and keeps a check on Philomena's antics.

Cut to the TV show where Philomena shows us how to make a Golliwog cake and deals particularly well with a mobile phone going off. Balloons and presents are given to the kids who are now on the kitchen surface top, which somehow results in Philomena expertly falling into the cake. This is where the show becomes confusing. Did Philomena make the children in a Frankenstein manner? Are they her unborn or aborted offspring? Or are they simply chickens in the oven coming to life? It was unclear. Although there is a dark side to this show it does need some light shed on it to make it a gourmet experience. There was lots of split focus, and below the construction in the air there was a flour pit which could have been explored more as it took up two-thirds of the stage.

The soundtrack was excellent and composer Peter Coyte deserves a mention. Paschale Straiton gave a strong performance, but John-Paul Zaccarini's character was weak. Devised theatre is creative, so is cooking. Put the two together and the proof of the pudding is in the watching. Some tasty bits, but the recipe needs dramatically re-adjusting.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Apr 2001

This article in the magazine

Issue 13-2
p. 26 - 27