Chef @ Underbelly Cowgate Review (Edinburgh Festival)

Despite the range of talent at the Fringe, it’s not often that a production is comparable to, or better than, a professional London run. However, Chef excels all other pieces of theatre I’ve seen at the Fringe in the last three years. The script is compelling, Jade Anouka’s performance completely perfect, and the entire experience will be with you for weeks afterwards.

Chef

Using just a kitchen trolley and a whiteboard, the stage is set minimally and appears cold and uninviting. This reflects well on the society under which our protagonist is thrown into jail. She, however, commands the audience’s sympathy effectively throughout. Anouka is by far one of the best actors I’ve seen from this year’s offerings at the Fringe, and her performance as the chef is gripping. More than once I found myself leaning forward in my seat; I didn’t want to miss a beat. Anouka commands the stage, embodying the characters she meets along her narrative perfectly. Her protagonist is strong and unbreakable, yet so often comes so close to the edge that the tension grips the audience without being laboured or overdone.

Sabrina Mahfouz is being hailed as one of the next great writers to watch, and after seeing Chef I’m adding myself to the long list of people thoroughly impressed with her writing talent. Her handling of topics like assisted suicide and domestic abuse is unlike anything I’ve seen. The end result is an intelligent and thoughtful piece, without the issues being in the drama for the sake of discussing issues. Instead she presents the audience with a viewpoint of how the penal system sees assisted suicide, and the way these events can have an enormous ripple effect of an impact. We are left with some hope for the protagonist, but she is still trapped. Mahfouz incorporates her knowledge of true events within the narrative subtly and effectively.

Chef stands as an excellent testimony for the funding of new writers. The programme lists the many grants given to Mahfouz, including the help of IdeasTap and the Sky Academy Arts Scholarship. It’s excellent to see large companies putting this amount of faith into new writers, as Mahfouz’s script is impeccable and Anouka’s performance flawless. If further companies can take on this faith, contemporary theatre could be home to more than one gem like Chef.

Chef was a spotless production and I can only hope it will be touring or subject to more performances. The performance and script are utterly arresting, and the audience leaves having felt they have seen something truly perfect. 5/5

Review written by Louise Jones.

Chef was shown as part of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival at the Underbelly, Cowgate from Friday 1st August until Sunday 17th August. For more information on the production, visit here…

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