Although its origin is lost in the mists of time – it possibly dates back to Goethe – the idiom ‘Be careful what you wish for in this world, for if you wish hard enough you are sure to get it’ is proved time and time again to be true. Indeed, Quiche, the latest play to hit the Camden Fringe at the Etcetera Theatre, really brings this point home.
In a small flat, preparations are being made for an event. Jenny (Ella Turk-Thompson) is wandering around, not quite dressed, plumping cushions and tidying up a bit. She looks a bit fed up but perks up as she puts some rock music on the iPod and dances along to it. Jenny is waiting for her partner John (Mike Williams) to come home as tonight they are having John’s colleague Jake (Frank McHugh) and his partner, drama teacher Jo (Ellie Mason) around for dinner. What could be more normal, two nice middle class couples sitting to down to a dinner party together? A few glasses of wine, some home-made quiche and chatting about their various lives. Let’s be honest, if this was the extent of the play, then I think everyone would be disappointed. Luckily, John has an idea to make the night, and possibly his life, a little more interesting. Jenny is on board – albeit a tad reluctantly – and he has discussed it with Jake over a few bevvies after work so maybe tonight, as the song goes is ‘gonna be a good, good night’ for the four friends.
Written and directed by Frank McHugh, Quiche is a very well observed play that examines relationships and the lengths people will go to to keep them alive. The opening scene with a monologue to the audience by first Jenny, then John works really well at setting the spirit of the play without having to indulge in lengthy story exposition by the various characters in the following scenes. This means that the play can start with pretty much everyone on the same page as to what is happening and why it is happening from the beginning. The pace is quite fast – running time is a little over sixty minutes – but never feels too rushed and events when they occur, do seem to do so in a logical and sensible timeframe and order. The story itself is intriguing as there were various routes that the author could have gone down and my companion and I really liked the path he chose which left a big question mark at the end leaving the audience to decide if it was going to be a happy or sad future for the protagonists.
Acting-wise the performances were first rate. Both Ella and Mike managed to put all those little touches into their performance of Jenny and John that you see in real life between couples. The wonderful terms of endearment said with a little spit of bile – and I loved John using Jenny-side as a pet name – that marks a couple who may have been together too long. And I have to give full credit to Ellie Mason who had either been knocking back the vino in the bar before the show or is just a superb actor when it comes to playing a drunk person. Never going so OTT as to be unbelievable, her character’s move from prim, slightly irritating sober school teacher to drunken good time girl was brilliant to watch and savor.
The set by Steve Adams was very appropriate for the type of couple that Jenny and John were – I actually recognised my old couch – and considering how much of the stuff they went through I do hope the wine bottles had something less strong in them. My one minor criticism was the iPod which never lit up despite supposedly providing all the music. It is something of an annoyance to me when people use something that is important to the narrative and it blatantly isn’t switched on. That is a really minor criticism that probably says much more about me than it does the play.
Overall, my companion and I both agreed that Quiche had been a really enjoyable play that, without going overboard, left the audience questioning some aspects of their own morality, or indeed asking what is morality these days. Lovingly staged and performed, Quiche is yet another fine addition to the Camden Fringe festival which seems to grow in stature day by day.
Review by Terry Eastham
John and his partner Jenny are having a dinner party, but their minds are far from being preoccupied with wine, casual chit-chat and over cooked quiche. John intends to make an exciting but delicate proposition to their guests Jo and Jake, a proposition that Jenny herself has reluctantly accepted.
Quiche is a play that challenges “the fantasy” against “the reality” and asks the question: What does monogamy mean to us in the modern day? You’ve either done it yourself, been asked to do it, or know someone who has done it. No matter which category you fall into, this comedy will have you rolling on the floor with laughter until you feel like you’re going to burst. Do not miss your chance to see the unforgettable Quiche!
Running time: 60 mins
Booking to 7th August 2016