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Review: Perpetual Stew at The Motley Bauhaus

Updated: Feb 14

Review by Emily White

The dinner party scene has long been a source of drama, comedy, and absurdity in theatre. Expertly serving up all three of these points, Perpetual Stew explores the intimate and domestic layers woven into the social and cultural can of worms that is a shared meal. 

Written by Victoria Barlow, Charlie Lawrence, and Milly Walker, each short scene takes us in a new direction, sometimes to a new world altogether. While some scenes fit the theme better than others, the show as a whole is cohesive, fun, and packed with laughs. The show brings a queer perspective to familiar scenes that are often dominated by heteronormative ideas of social relationships.

Entering the theatre, audience members are greeted by the crew dressed as waiters and offering cups of miso soup. A novelty and a treat that gives the show a point of difference and sets you up for an intimate experience. It is clear throughout the show that the team behind Perpetual Stew has thought about senses often overlooked in theatre such as taste and smell. 

While the soup was a wholesome (and optional) addition to the sensory experience, the repeated use of herbal cigarettes was not. Beginning when one of our waiters took a quick smoko side of stage, relit periodically, and left to smoulder throughout the show, the consideration of olfactory senses quickly became a sensory assault.

For this genre of theatre, a lit cigarette was unnecessary. The comedy was strong enough to engage the willing suspension of disbelief, and in fact the smoke caused more distraction than immersion. In a theatre this small, it was just awful. The air was made thick, and there was no relief until we exited the theatre and could breathe easily again. It was an unfortunate choice that underscored what was otherwise a very well put together show. 

The cast showed great adaptability, bouncing from one scene to the next with an excellent sense of pace. The emotional ups and downs are superbly curated by the writers and directors, and every scene is established quickly and cohesively - from an ageing yet adventurous Tik Tok family, to a couple of unlucky in love ants, to a sexy mouse straight out of a film noir, every scenario is believable and layered with emotional depth.

Sam Eade’s facial expressions were a highlight. Courtney Crisfield brought strong characterisation to every role, while Conagh Punch showed vast emotional range that kept pace with the twists and turns of each scene. Victoria Barlow’s vulnerability was their strength, while also bringing a sense of humour to each role. 

Special mention must go to the extensive ant-based wordplay in the ant scene, as well as the downright exquisite world building of the spaghetti scene — this scene was a masterclass in effortless absurdity.

The story of a country mouse moving to a big city, told in film noir style, was woven through the whole show, culminating in a burlesque strip tease that should have been the big finale. The burlesque routine had all the right elements, costume, and choreography, but unfortunately the execution was underwhelming. Barlow’s lack of energy and physical engagement made for an awkward fizzling out rather than big finish. In comparison to one of their earlier scenes — draped over a chair, covered in fruit, hilarious and vulnerable — this act needed more work. 

Overall, Perpetual Stew is a fun show with a few weak spots. With a bit more polishing, this show will shine as it should. 

Image Supplied


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