Fifty minutes went by in a flash, and yet just metres away actress Jade Anouka had recounted the entire life story of a troubled but talented chef.
Chef is a short play with plenty of power. After premiering at Edinburgh Fringe Festival it has won a string of awards and now finds itself in the heart of London’s West End at Soho Theatre. The piece is part of the summer programme of monologue-based plays.
This one-woman show is a platform for a strong and versatile actress and Jade Anouka rises to the challenge. She tells the story eloquently and fervently, using the small stage imaginatively to flick between characters and scenarios. With almost no staging and very few props, she holds the attention of the audience for almost an hour and leaves us wanting to hear more.
We hear the tale of a young girl abused by a father, the woes of her destructive relationships but then the joy she experiences as a young woman learning her craft in the kitchen. Food is not just her passion and skill but it is her escape. She seeks shelter and solace in the kitchen when the world turns on her. We hear how she established herself at the helm of an haute-cuisine restaurant later finding herself, as a convicted inmate, running a prison kitchen. A white board allows the play to be split into sections, each titled with a foodie delight like ‘The Perfect Peach’ or ‘Red Berries with Hibiscus Sorbet’.
The script is lyrical and poetic; at times the rhythm of Anouka’s speech becomes almost rap-like in its realisation. The writing is florid with lots of description and complex imagery – it requires concentration to fully understand, but is satisfying and beautiful to listen to. I felt fully immersed in the narrative and at times noticed myself gasp or jump with surprise.
Chef is a mesmerising insight into the life of a chef, and the life of a convict but most of all the life of woman and the struggle for love and fulfilment. Sabrina Mahfouz’s thought-provoking play will provide the perfect talking point over dinner in one of Soho’s lovely eateries.
Chef continues until 4 July 2015, more information and book here.