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Butchered – Expial Atrocious – Vault Festival

After an absence of two years, it was so good to be back under Waterloo Station at the first week of the Vault Festival this week. I’m going to be there a few times over the course of the festival, but my first show this week was Expial Atrocious’ Butchered.

Butchered - Photo credit: Moments to Media.
Butchered – Photo credit: Moments to Media.

Master Sausage (Ezre Holland) is not a happy worker. For years, they have been toiling away, working every day to produce sausages for the people above. Master Sausage knows how to make sausages. They have followed the same steps, from basic ingredients to finished sausages, day in, day out for as long as they can remember. But today, things are different. They have been given an Apprentice (Nic Lawton) to work with them. The Apprentice and Master Sausage could not be more different. Master Sausage is dour, downtrodden, and beaten down. Apprentice is lively, talkative, and very optimistic. Forced to work together, with no hope of redemption or escape. Can Master Sausage and Apprentice find a compromise that allows them both to be themselves and somehow get through the drudgery of their lives

Butchered begins as soon as the doors open, and we enter the dank, damp vault. Accompanied by loud, dark music, and appropriate sound effects, the two performers go through the tasks of making sausages. And I have to point out here the synchronisation between the performers, music and sound effects. Every movement was beautifully timed and executed to add a lot of realism to the opening. At the time, I did think the opening went on a bit too long and I was waiting for something to happen. But it eventually dawned on me that the reason the opening was so long was to really highlight the mundanity of Master Sausage and Apprentice’s working lives. Once the story began, it moved fast, and the characters of Master Sausage and Apprentice were quickly set out. Both actors really throwing themselves into their roles. All the way through I had a thought as to how the story would end and, while I was partially right, the ending did take me by surprise, though thinking about the story afterwards, it made perfect sense.

Butchered is a lovely example of mixing theatrical styles to produce something quite unique. We have original music, realistic sound, stylised movement and good old-fashioned acting mixed into a 50-minute show that really packs a punch.

Since the pandemic and the various lockdowns, many people are re-evaluating their working lives and, in a lot of cases, wondering if maybe there is something more out there apart from the daily grind (pun intended). Butchered is a timely, if comedically horrible, reminder that work and life can be separated.

4 stars

Review by Terry Eastham

Welcome to the kitchen where dreams come to die.

After working in a basement kitchen for as long as they can remember, Master Sausage only knows one thing. Eat, sleep, sausage, repeat. Trying to appease the greed of their faceless employers, the Top Steps, they work relentlessly and cannot imagine their life beyond the butchery.

But when a babbling, fresh-faced Apprentice arrives, a harsh reality is brought with them. With their daily routine disrupted, the Master is forced to look their life in the eye and climb into the belly of the beast. As tensions rise, sinister questions rear their heads. What does it mean to be happy? Is there more to life than this? What’s in those sausages anyway?

‘Sweeney Todd’ meets ‘The Trap Door’ in this blood-thirsty absurdist thriller about challenging tradition, surviving in a cut-throat world and doing what has to be done…

Sat 28th Jan – Sun 29th Jan 2023


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