Emily Carewe, 45North and Theatre503
Max (India Mullen), a successful blogger in Gillian Greer’s play Meat, has been persuaded to publish her memoir and, in keeping with the tell-it-all convention, has decided it must include an account of a disturbing incident with her drunken boyfriend Ronan (Sean Fox) when they were teenagers many years before. That has prompted her to meet with Ronan, no longer her boyfriend, in his Dublin meat restaurant to tell him of her intention.
The decision has stirred up for her lots of unresolved issues about the incident and there is clearly still some romantic chemistry between the pair. However, as these things sometimes go, they have difficulty getting to the point.
A brief initial scene, set sometime late in their conversation, lets us know he is being accused of something he doesn’t believe happened. The rest of the play takes us mostly through their conversation chronologically, though the multiple scenes of them sitting at a table centre stage with two huge slabs of raw meat hanging beside them (not sure that would improve my appetite) don’t always fit together smoothly. And part of the reason for that is the way talk about food and drink dominates their conversation.
“Have some wine” is a typical comment and, if they hadn’t chucked a good deal of it on the floor or over the walls, they would be truly drunk.
The food and where it comes from is another distracting conversation. There’s one about ducks in Spain, who enjoy their food so much, they stuff their liver to death so that we can have foie gras. Another concerns female bees which Max is told by the woman Jo (Elinor Lawless), the co-owner of the restaurant, collect honey they will never consume. (An omen of the way things must be for women in a man’s world.) There’s talk about meat, bread, ice cream and oysters but nothing vegetarian, this being a meat restaurant with a policy in their words of “feck off vegetarians”. And that poses a problem for Max because she is a vegan.
No worries, just throw the food at the wall. He mustn’t like the food either because he also throws it at the wall. What’s more, neither of them seems to notice the other is doing it. Later, when things get truly romantic, the pair have a food fight, before embracing of course.
So it goes and I did wonder what all this had to do with a rape victim’s need to speak, to have justice, or even in the words of Max “to heal”.
Maybe it was saying, “lads will be lads and you can’t expect better, so just get on with loving them and leave it at that,” which seems to be Jo’s advice to Max.
Beyond the mess of food, drink and the emotions of Max, nothing much changes and I wondered whether this wasn’t a truly pessimistic vision of the prospects for women living with men.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna