Rehearsals photo credit: Jonathan Oldfield. Edward Stone (left) and Pedro Leandro pictured.
If I’m being totally honest, I wasn’t expecting much from a comedy about the relationship between a cannibal and his prospective meal. Nonetheless I braved a cold night to leave my house and head to Omnibus Theatre in Clapham to see ‘Fiji’. I am so glad I did, as I was delighted to discover this really is a beautiful comic gem of a show.
The creation of ‘Fiji’ appears to have been very much team effort, with both performers and the director billed as writers. This talented trio have successfully taken a taboo subject and transformed it into a funny and engaging story about love and connection.
The premise of the play is simply and accurately captured in the press release as follows:
“Nick and Sam have a date this weekend and if things go well it will be the first and last time they will ever see each other… you see Nick wants to eat Sam… and Sam, well Sam really wants to be eaten”
This is not the most obvious set up for a love story, yet ‘Fiji’ brims with a genuine warmth that I found both disarming and absorbing. Evan Lordan’s direction ensures a dynamic pace throughout, so it never becomes a static “let’s talk about our feelings” piece. The humour and warmth that threads throughout the play is sensitively brought to life. The occasional sharp and witty reminders of what is scheduled to happen Sunday evening ground us in the bizarre reality of what might otherwise feels like a perfectly normal date.
Edward Stone is wonderfully pragmatic as our cannibal Nick. This isn’t some weirdo lock-in indulging a fetish. Inspired by the story of Armin Meiwes, Nick has decided he wants to eat a willing subject (victim is far too loaded and misleading a word in this context) to see what elements he will absorb from the person he has eaten. There is a clear spiritual component to his desire to eat Sam, as if this is the ultimate way for them to be connected forever. Stone’s performance powerfully lands this sense of conviction and purpose. It would have been easier and lazier to make Nick a master manipulator in this scenario, and I’m so glad that isn’t the route they chose to take. There is something pure, if disturbing, about his desire to eat Sam.
Meanwhile Pedro Leandro’s Sam is funny and surprisingly mischievous. This is a vivacious and engaging performance that bursts with humour and affection. He is a wonderful foil to the more serious and practical Nick. The irony that someone who is so full of life should want to die and be eaten is not lost on the audience or Nick. He really wants to know why Sam wants to do this. Will Sam ever explain? Well, you’ll have to see the play to find out, and I do recommend seeing this warm-hearted and funny show.
So don’t let the subject of cannibalism put you off. This is a beautifully written, structured, produced and performed piece of comic theatre, that will make you both laugh and think. What more can you ask for?
‘Fiji’ runs at the Omnibus Theatre in Clapham until Sunday 24th November.