In Bad Taste

What if the answer to capitalism was to eat the rich? We’ve all heard the phrase – popularised via meme in the early part of 2020, whose roots are based in an abbreviated quote from the political philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau – but what if this provocative statement was actualised in reality? One of the beautiful things about art is that we are able to wonder at the what ifs of life, and theatre can bring these what ifs into a physical realism – or surrealism, as the case may be. Theatre is provocative, as all art forms are, and sometimes that provocation stirs from the darkest parts of human experience. Cannibalism is, within Western society, an enormous taboo. Though the consumption of meat is seen traditionally as an indication of social standing – the types of meat people consume have always had enormous, albeit shifting, significance to one’s economic situation – the act of eating human flesh is viewed in the European tradition of morality as inhuman. In Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, the image of a mother eating her own sons who have been baked into a pie is a horrifying image of the ultimate revenge, while the true life stories of the Donner Party and Franklin’s lost expedition to the Arctic are often viewed as real life horror movies. So in bringing perhaps one of the biggest cultural taboos to the stage, Sixteen Sixty Theatre are challenging their audience to consider how far morality can be twisted in order to serve a perceived great good.

Written by Daisy Kelly, In Bad Taste follows Violet (Rachel Ferguson) and her tight knit group of friends (played by Daisy Kelly, Kirby Merner, Léonie Crawford and Chloe Pidhoreckyj) as they decide to exact revenge on Violet’s investment banker boss in a somewhat… novel way. What begins as a surreal first draft of a socialist revolution becomes a new, visceral (with extra viscera) wave of feminism. As each of the women fall further into this strange, dark and twistedly funny world of cannibalising misogynists, the real world of law and order begins to catch up with them. Will their feminist message be missed amongst the media hubbub or will they indeed stoke the fires of a new, carnivorous revolution?

I love dark humour, or, more specifically, dark humour that has a purpose to it. The grotesque isn’t something that particularly shocks me so long as it has a well reasoned intention behind it, and In Bad Taste certainly utilises the grotesque to make a point about how misogyny is not addressed in our culture. Indeed, the highlights of this show for me were the moments of utter absurdism in the face of one of the most horrific acts a human being can commit – the fourth wall breaking, surreal moments of stylised running sequences and alibi planning were cleverly choreographed and achieved the kind of hilarious jump cuts that offset the grim reality of the characters’ situation. However, there was a lack of grounded passion and emotional focus from some of the cast that left the more serious elements of the plot floundering in apathy. While Kelly and Crawford balance the comedy and tragedy with expert flare, there is a lack of any real anger or outrage within the show’s atmosphere. In the closing moments of In Bad Taste, this female led theatre company lay down their creative thesis for the show in a beautiful spoken word style verse, and at the heart of this thesis is rage; rage at the society that continues to abuse those who identify as women. But within the main body of this play, there is more irreverent humour than rage. Anger can be an incredible fuel for comedy, but in this dark comedy, the fires that could be raging are only gently flickering.

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