June Spoon and Phillip Fork host Pass the Spoon, a vibrant cookery show/opera mashup by David Shrigley, David Fennessy and Nicholas Bone. Mr Granules is coming to dinner, and the presenters must impress him with a Special Menu. Everything seems to be going to plan, but when the chops burn and Mr Granules starts to get angry, June and Phillip are tested to their admittedly rather unimpressive limits.
The music by David Fennessy veers wildly between satirical pastiches of opera, Broadway, Victorian hymns, Enya-like dirges, and squeaky-door contemporary classical. It’s immediately accessible to the audience, but very technically demanding of the orchestra.
The Red Note Ensemble of eleven orchestral players conducted by Oliver Gooch not only rise to the challenge, but do it in cooks’ check and chefs’ hats. Percussionist Tom Hunter in particular goes beyond the call of duty, playing balloons, shells, Jamaican steel drums and using a large kitchen knife in a variety of increasingly inventive ways.
Pauline Knowles is superb as June Spoon, her stylised acting and mega-confident stage presence often drawing laughs from the audience independently of any scripted jokes. Stewart Cairns has a less exuberant part, but still manages to radiate the after-school TV cringe factor in all the right ways.
Gavin Mitchell is also gloriously over the top in his two roles. His two showcase songs as depressed Mr Egg and showbusiness Shit (literally) are highlights of the production, as is the vegetable puppet manipulation of Tobias Wilson.
There’s no mistaking that much of the humour of the show comes from its trippiness, but there is something hidden in the seemingly random decisions that makes it all fit together. Having vegetables audition to be included in a soup, or portraying the butcher as a psychotic vicar who tends a flock of homosexual meat-beasts is undoubtedly off the wall, but to me it also has a certain resonance with the way humans behave around food.
David Shrigley and co. somehow make it work, but I think that this show concept was written and produced by anyone else, it would probably be so much showbusiness shit (figuratively). Having said that, the running time of one hour shows that the creative team are aware there’s a risk of this hunger-dream outstaying its welcome, even in this exuberant, energetic and very funny form.