Given the amount of information Leonard (Timothy Harker) is able to glean about Blaize (Michael Hanratty), one could be forgiven for thinking that Blaize is some sort of celebrity. He’s certainly self-congratulatory enough to speak of himself in the third person. But this appears to be the sort of data that can be easily obtained by reading through whatever social media platform Leonard prefers to use – anything but Grindr, it would appear.
Consumables is an intriguing look at connectivity in the digital era. Leonard, an older man, has his views about the younger Blaize and his generation, and presumptions fly both ways. But sweeping generalisations do not get to the heart of whatever is bugging this duo as individuals, and knowing about someone (or their ‘type’) is not the same as understanding them.
The assertiveness and borderline arrogance of Blaize, an actor with credits in (ahem) adult entertainment to his name, is uncovered by Leonard, who has invited him over for some roleplay. Things take a perceptively dark turn when Blaize, arguably rightly, doesn’t think Leonard’s roleplaying is realistic enough. There’s a metaphor in the blue movies youngster taking his clothes off and thus being vulnerable. The aftermath is something we’ve seen before, though – younger man turns on the waterworks, older man embraces him and tells him it’s not his fault – Good Will Hunting, anyone?
Still, there’s nothing wrong with a display of genuine emotion, and Hanratty’s Blaize is not one to do things by halves. Add to proceedings Mrs Joseph (Susan Aderin), Leonard’s neighbour in what I presume is a block of flats, adding some much-needed humour to what might otherwise have been a relentlessly gloomy production. She’s the sort of very pleasant and caring character who is also unknowingly a tad nosy; her insistence on coming to Leonard’s aid at the first sign of what she considers to be trouble has hilarious consequences as he desperately attempts to conceal the roleplay still in progress. In one of her brief appearances, she seems to assert that the reason why she calls on Leonard – and others – as much as she does is because she doesn’t want to be at home with ‘Mr Joseph’: all three on-stage characters are, in their own way, crying out for a compatible partner.
There’s a boldness in this show, comfortably steadily paced but uncomfortably featuring explorations and conversations about being in a place like London, teeming with millions of people, and yet still finding oneself in a position of heartbreaking loneliness. I would be lying if I said I identified with such emotions, but there are, I suspect, a considerable number of people out there who do see a Leonard or a Blaize in themselves – not so much the ‘S&M’ fantasies but a longing for a significant other that eludes them for whatever reasons. Why else would there be online matchmaking services and Facebook groups set up for people looking for friends? There’s even an industry regulatory body called the Association of British Introduction Agencies.
I was left wondering what happened next to the three characters – perhaps a sequel could become the play’s second act. Leaving the audience wanting more is a good place for a production to be in. Now, it takes a lot to shock me in a theatre these days, but Consumables impressively set the proverbial alarm bells ringing, more than once. Exposing the harsh reality of city life, this is a provocative production, discerning and amusing in equal measure.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Consumables, an unapologetic, darkly comic and poignant new play by Matthew Kyne Baskott will be taking to the stage at VAULT Festival in February 2018 following two sell-out, critically acclaimed runs at the King’s Head Theatre in 2017.
Down and out porn star Blaize responds to an internet ad from his number one fan. Leonard, a lonely leather-daddy, offers to serve him up a special kind of meal.
In our ever more connected world, Consumables asks the question; how do you make a genuine connection? With most of our lives spent building up an outward public persona on a multitude of dating apps and social media platforms, is it possible to really know someone?
VAULT Festival 2018
24th January – 18th March 2018 Times & prices vary
London SE1 7NN