Nottingham New Theatre
I have to admit to being surprised to discover that the writer and cast of Beef are all students, for neither the script nor the performances give any clue that that's the case, and in a festival that is annually swamped with obviously studenty shows, that is some achievement. The last time I felt this was in 2007 with a Cambridge University production of Gogol's The Overcoat.
The situation is surreal - the run up to a modern day Noah's Flood - and yet both situation and characters are treated totally realistically, after an opening in which a preacher, who speaks with a strange accent which bears little resemblance to any modern accent that I could recognise, talks of Mark, to whom God revealed the coming cataclysm and who was responsible for the regeneration of the human race after the Flood.
After this somewhat disconcerting opening, we return to the modern day and see the build-up to the events he has described.
Those who are to be the remnants of the current human race and the progenitors of the next slowly gather in Mark's home: his wife (who was about to leave him), her pregnant sister, a colleague from work, and various others who have some vague connections with the colleague. Tensions build as this motley collection of people interact and the storm and flood outside build.
It's a gripping piece, thanks to both the writing and the performances.
Reviewer: Peter Lathan