Eat Me – Manipulate Festival

Originally conceived by Eszter Marsalko, Isy Sharman and Claire Eliza Willoughby

Devised and Performed by Ian Cameron, Isy Sharman and Claire Eliza Willoughby

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Frozen, out of time, slipping on the wet cobbles beneath in her loud dress without any shoes – Prey lays there with the snaps of cold water flushing her face. Nothing will be the same again. That evening, surviving in the betwixt & between, three nameless people venture into avenues unknown to many. Female-led production company Snap Elastic presents EAT ME – a provocative theatre experience of unconventional attractions, control and the dynamics and complexities of power and chaos.

Predator. Prey. Man. Our three players in this ever-evolving game of sensory exploration intermingle in the most unexpected ways. Man, a nosey neighbour fascinated with the group sex, deaths and goings-on of those in close proximity, finds himself surfing the Dark Web alongside Prey to find the one thing she desires – to be Eaten.

A metatextual vision of gross consumption in a world where the guttural lust for sensory pleasure turns to self-infliction, EAT ME as an unfathomable complexity at its foundations that isn’t communicated thoroughly enough. Not through the fault of dedication, Ian Cameron, Claire Eliza Willoughby and Isla Sharman are undoubtedly committed to their performance – all bringing unhinged and volatile energy to the piece. Particular Eliza Willoughby as Prey, holding control through most of the piece until we finally are introduced to Predator. There’s accessibility with the role, underperformed where required, and moments of satirical humour.

Sharman makes for an engaging Predator, spouting Sophocles and possesses understated intimidation – it’s just such a shame that much of her initial performance is crawling on the floor. Mildly underutilised too, Cameron’s best moments are sadly through pre-recorded sequences, an uneasiness surrounding him as he begins his ‘partnership’ with Prey.

Christine Devaney’s choreography merits the production’s descriptive terminology and leans into the sensory experience. Where the differencing surfaces and textures, some reflective, lend themselves to warping the barrier and symbolically challenging our vision – it is the audio that stands apart as the exceptional twisting of narrative. Additionally, with the presence of both closed captions to aid with internal monologues, and BSL live throughout, EAT ME is fully accessible and broadens its approach to audiences.

Expectations of an urbane cannibalistic tale of flesh and sinew will find disappointment, as the movement focused pieces begin to stagnate and swirl the waters of understanding. We’re never entirely certain of the dedication these people have with the choice of cannibalism – which should be a good thing, but the audience isn’t kept in the shadows through mystery, but rather confusion.

Perhaps what causes the most significant issues however is with pacing; EAT ME is an undoubtedly slow piece that treads through the murk rather than lunges. Even by the finale, where Predator and Prey run through their hunt, the audience has become detached from any invigorating or momentum which is being pursued. With much of the product having a solitary opening, the relationship the pair form should become the focal point, the crux and unexpected twist. Instead, many are playing catch-up. Snap Elastic has an exceptional mind to challenge the expected status, but EAT ME lies a little too heavily in the undecided.

For more information about Eat Me, and what else is on at Manipulate – check their website here.

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