Mouthful Dishes Up Plenty Of Food For Thought

Mouthful, Trafalgar Studios ★★★★☆

Lettie Mckie
By Lettie Mckie Last edited 42 months ago
Mouthful Dishes Up Plenty Of Food For Thought Mouthful, Trafalgar Studios 4

Mouthful is a collection of short plays written by leading playwrights who have teamed up with experts scientists to theatrically imagine the impact of the global food crisis on individuals, both now and in the future.

Six actors play multiple roles in this multifaceted piece that exposes the failures of our food system by informatively mixing scientific information with emotive personal stories. Barefoot they work on a stage that is covered in sand, the walls packed with mud, in a (slightly obvious) reminder of where we have all come from. A rectangular projection screen flashes astonishing, often terrifying, facts such as ‘it takes one tonne of water to produce a steak’ and as the plays progresses, recordings of the opinions and decisions of the various characters we meet are added to the loop. As a whole this works very effectively, with slick lighting and minimal props ensuring the scenes flow from story to story. The diversity of stories reminds us that humanity is united by its vulnerable reliance on the same, finite, resources.

Settings range from war-torn Tunisia to post-apocalyptic America and several stories focus on Africa. Mouthful considers the immense political power of food and water and is an affecting conversation about the problems that face us in the future. With such a wide reaching subject it’s not surprising the plays cover the breadth of human experience. They also demand a lot from the actors who throw themselves into a huge range of roles — Alisha Bailey and Robert Hands showing particularly quick-witted versatility.

Highlights include 16 Pounds by Neil Labute, which presents a dystopia where water has run dry, and Chocolate by Bola Agbaje which sees a privileged young London couple fight over their differing views on healthy eating. Turned by Inua Ellams reminds us that the western arms dealing is constantly implicated in conflicts which lead to hunger, using the devastating famine caused by the Nigerian/Biafran civil war as a 20th century example.

At the heart of all these stories are the uncomfortable facts of climate change, greed and an unsustainable global food system. Mouthful asks the question nobody wants to answer: how do we change our behaviour today in order to survive tomorrow?

Mouthful is on at Trafalgar Studios, 14 Whitehall, SW1A 2DY, until 3 October. Tickets £15-£25. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 14 September 2015