The Cold Buffet Press Night Review at Live Theatre Newcastle
Written by Elijah Young and Directed by Jack McNamara, The cold buffet is a three part play that focuses on the family relationship of the McCarthys. We observe three generations in mother, son and grandson, coming together to see each other at occasions through a wake, wedding and christening. Like many real life situations our characters come together with strained conversation over the buffet and unsaid words.
The stage set has us observing a side room to the social club that the McCarthys always have their get togethers at, a piano situated at the back of the room and the buffet table that not everyone wants to touch. The arch of the balconies and set up of cabaret tables that are in place in the theatre lent itself to this production and had an immersive feeling that made me feel we as audience members were sitting in this social club ourselves coupled with the muffled sounds of music coming from the room next door where the main party was.
The play focuses on Ellis (Nick Blakely) who travels up from London back for these events over a five year period. Observing the constant drama we see his tiring attitude to these get togethers and wonders if he is better off staying away altogether, but we question if he is as much to blame as anyone else in letting things go unsaid until it gets too much. Appearing cold or reluctant, underneath he yearns for an acceptance he doesn’t believe he has received.
Evelyn (Jane Holman) is the matriarch of the family and staunch catholic. Not shy in coming forward she’s happy to say what she thinks and of course she’s stubborn too. Of an age and belief not shared by others it’s often hard for her to see others in the way they want or need to be understood and for some it’s not always a happy ending.
David (Jim Kitson) is Ellis dad and son to Evelyn, taking on the speeches at each of these events, we learn of his relationship with his deceased father and later compare this to his own with his son Ellis, alongside his increasingly strained relationship with his mother.
Ayeesha (Amara Karan) is the outsider. Younger girlfriend to David at the start of the play, I really enjoyed her efforts to play nice, encourage and put on a face that didn’t always represent her thoughts and then how by the end of the play once married into the family had changed to open criticism and direct talking. With a newborn baby also at the end we see this child in his cot looking up into this world with it all to come.
Max (Beth Fletcher Morris) is the youngest member of the family and cousin to Ellis. Named the ‘peacekeeper’ they look on and observe through the eye of a camera lens as defacto event photographer. Choosing to keep the peace and staying quiet and running to the bar when things got awkward.
This play had portrayed the characters own drama and issues with each other in the same conviction as the humour that was inserted throughout, lightening the mood. Scenes such as one with an urn of Evelyn’s cremated husband brings laughs from all and end of act two brings a lot of laughs and an immersive moment from a fraught Ayeesha.
I think the reason I enjoyed this play and the reason it has been so well received is that there’s something that we can all relate to in one form or another. I’ve definitely experienced the same awkwardness and small talk for sure.
This buffet served up a mix of generational divide, being on the outside and acceptance.
The Cold Buffet by Elijah Young plays at Live Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne until 28th October and I cannot recommend it more highly.
Tickets are on sale now at www.live.org.uk or from Box Office on (0191) 232 1232.
photo credit: Von Fox Productions