Theatre Review: The Pantry Shelf and Noughty Girls, Basement Theatre

By Paul Simei-Barton

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Michelle Blindell as Wasabi Punch and Ben van Lier as Carlito Corn Chips. Photo / Supplied
Michelle Blindell as Wasabi Punch and Ben van Lier as Carlito Corn Chips. Photo / Supplied

Team M&M are an enterprising Kiwi couple who premiered The Pantry Shelf at the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

The international experience has forged an expansive, freewheeling approach that draws inspiration from the absolutely bonkers theatrical traditions that made Danny Boyle's Olympic Games opening so striking.

The five-member cast play supermarket food products inhabiting a viciously competitive world where the pressure tobe chosen by fickle shoppers engenders jealousy, back-stabbing and rapidly changing alliances.

The food products emerge as well-rounded characters with fiery emotional conflicts and complex moral dilemmas.

Marion Shortt neatly captures the growing self-awareness of a trendy health food snack who comes to realise that her rebellious attitude is just a marketing ploy, while Matt Halliday expresses the pathos of a stodgy porridge who is seduced by the excitement of mixing with the sophisticated party products only to be cruelly spurned by Rita Stone's glamorous brand of chocolate.

The shopping cart routines are a bit repetitive but the dialogue is razor sharp and the lively performances sustain an appealing madcap energy.

The show is presented as a double header with Thomas Sainsbury's Noughty Girls, though each play can be viewed separately.

Sainsbury's devised work offers an up-to-the-minute account of 21st-century romance, with Elizabeth McMenamin and Chelsea McEwan Millar playing a couple of 20-somethings desperately seeking whatever.

Casual liaisons, breakups and the perils of commitment are described in a series of vignettes interspersed with song snippets, cellphone photos and some wonderfully sardonic Facebook postings like, "Friends don't let friends drink and post."

The show rolls to the hectic rhythms of contemporary life, and the naturalistic dialogue has the engaging authenticity of drama that draws on the actors' own experiences.

What:The Pantry Shelf and Noughty Girls
Where: Basement Theatre until Saturday

- NZ Herald

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