By Flora Norton
“F**k, marry, kill: Hitler, Stalin and Mao.”
“Explain the stock market in 2 minutes”
“Do you ever anticipate having to defend yourself against your own government and why?”
Three questions that I would find difficult to answer at the best of time let alone whilst trying to cook a three-course meal in thirty minutes. As it turns out, watching a stand-up comedian try to do exactly that is exceptionally entertaining and the best possible way to spend a balmy September evening.
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Cooking For is a fast-paced comedy act where comedians attempt to complete one of Jamie Oliver’s thirty-minute meals in exactly thirty minutes whilst answering personal questions hurled at them by their audience. The show pokes fun at the celebrity chef’s bold claim that the meals are simple, easy and quick whilst also gently mocking reality cooking shows and the absurdity of asking someone to multi-task in such a way.
Having been notified of the address on the morning of the show, I arrive at the front door of a small, suburban house in Brunswick at 7:15, very unsure of what to expect. As people start accumulating on the street, we are ushered into the private home and asked to fill out a form with questions we’d like to ask our guest chef. We are told that the questions should be as personal, as complex and as controversial as possible.
At 7:30 we are then led into the kitchen where chairs have been set up facing the beautifully clean and meticulously organised kitchen. A large digital countdown is fastened to the back wall and a small television is displaying live footage of the stove. Our guest chef, on this occasion the celebrated Australian comedian Annie Louey, is welcomed into the room, presented her recipe, and calmly told to peel and chop the onions to begin the mushroom risotto.
25 minutes later, the smell of burning rice is beginning to reach the front row, the kitchen counter is strewn with forgotten vegetables, the audience are screaming at Louey as she distractedly tries to add mushrooms to the cheesecake while she tries to explain what her last meal on death row would be and what crime she would have committed to get there.
Stressful, messy and stupidly funny, the play has everybody in stitches and Louey should be commended for her ability to maintain her composure, and indeed, her sense of humour. The cosy kitchen and audience participation also create an atmosphere of familiarity and the deeply personal questions have the effect of engaging the audience and creating a sense of comradery. The play feels less like a piece of theatre and more like an evening with friends at home and the thought of recreating it with my own friends is more than tempting.
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Cooking For is a fantastic concept that has been executed flawlessly and I would more than happily go to every showing to see how all the other comedians cope under pressure. Another interesting, innovative and exciting new way of approaching theatre and a must-see for anyone interested in the Melbourne Fringe.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.