Chop it up: Chef @Sohotheatre

One woman’s descent from a haute-cuisine head-chef to convicted inmate provides for some mouth watering entertainment in Sabrina Mahfouz’s Chef at the Soho Theatre. While it is not necessarily an unexpected journey, it provides enough interest for its short duration to make you wish you were not watching it on an empty stomach.

It all starts with a peach. With the simplest of ingredients,  Jade Anouka takes us through a range of courses that track her culinary career and the events that lead to her ending up in jail.

Food as her passion comes out more strongly in this piece than the stories of her troubled teenage years, domestic life and the need to keep things level while behind bars. The dialogue is so evocative of food, its preparation and presentation that it is bound to make you hungry.

There are also some smart witty lines in it: “The night is packed away into a black bin bag, tagged with a let’s not talk of that again, tomorrow will be better and maybe we should just get pizza.”

But you get the sense (particularly if you have ever watched any episodes of Orange is the New Black), that the troubled backdrop to extraordinary talented person behind bars has been covered more successfully elsewhere. And the shortness of the piece does not give it much time to delve deeply into anything.

Anouka is engaging throughout the piece as the cook with issues, and with a passion. And as a monologue and meditation on life choices and making art out of everyday activities it is fascinating.

It is a sparse production, with just a whiteboard covering the menu and the issues du jour and a stainless steel bench. But it is effective.

Chef was winner of an Edinburgh Fringe First 2014 and The Stage Awards for Acting Excellence. It is directed by Kirsty Patrick Ward and runs upstairs at the Soho Theatre until 4 July.


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