JOYCE MCMILLAN on PASS THE SPOON at the Tramway, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 19.11.11.
4 stars ****
IN DARK economic times, audiences don’t need reminding that life is real, and very earnest. What they need is fun, frivolity, glamour and a touch of silliness; and if the 1930’s gave us Busby Berkeley musicals, then the year 2011 has given us Magnetic North’s new “sort of opera” Pass The Spoon, surely the most sublimely silly event to grace a Scottish stage in many years.
Based on the slightly surreal and definitely whimsical cartoons of the popular Glasgow artist David Shrigley, the 75-minute show boasts a fine modernist score by Glasgow-based composer David Fennessy, and is set – on a dazzling Sixties-style set by Shrigley himself – in the television studio kitchen dedicated to a morning cookery show hosted by elegant June Spoon and her chubby sidekick Philip Fork. The look is distinctly retro, the style more Fanny Cradock than Ainsley Harriott; and the stage is inhabited not only by an 11-strong version of the Red Note Ensemble in chef’s outfits, under the baton of Garry Walker, but by a a whole range of living vegetables and foodstuffs, including a potato, a carrot, a turnip, an uppity banana, and a depressive egg.
Just here and there, there’s a hint of some kind of satirical intent in the show; it features a ravening, all-consuming guest called Mr. Granules, who can only be defeated by the slightly sinister knife-grinding butcher, with his gleaming blades. For most of the time, though, it’s just a case of daft and delicious fooling about, beginning with Facade-style music-backed recitation, and increasingly soaring into song as the action intensifies. The whole glorious event is perfectly executed by a cast of six actor-singers led by the gorgeous Pauline Knowles as June Spoon. And if it would be good to see such tremendous cross-art-form resources dedicated to serious work, as well as pure fun, there’s no denying the gorgeous, poster-paint-coloured skill and style of Nicholas Bone’s fine production; or the pure pleasure and exhilaration on the faces of the audience, as they pour out into a wet Glasgow night.