Saturday, 29 September 2007

Cake by Astrid Pill Sept 29, 2007

 Cake by Astrid Pill
Vital Statistix and Malthouse Theatre
Tower Theatre Malthouse, Sept 29 to Oct 7, 2007
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Sept 29, 2007

The addiction to cake of the woman in Astrid Pill’s show called Cake, is rendered in poetic language, movement and song. I hadn’t realised there were so many songs about pastries and baking.

We enter the Tower while Pill and musician-performer Zoe Barry chant a lyrical, a cappella version of the children’s playground rhyme, Pat-a-Cake Pat-a-Cake Baker’s Man. The floor is strewn with sifted flour and our footprints leave a telling trail across the space. We negotiate a path around patty cakes that lie scattered on the ground or sit in orderly fashion on cake platters at our feet.

During her story, Pill offers little, cherry-topped cakes to happy audience cake-lovers. She narrates in both the first and third person; “She” becomes “I” and vise versa. The woman is melancholy, perhaps unhappy in love but definitely unhappy in life. She becomes addicted to her visits to the best cake shop and, day after day, orders a collection of pastries: lamington, teacake, torte, streudel. She eats them before she reaches home, in the car or lying in bed – anywhere.

She also becomes addicted to seeing Janek the baker who she believes recognises her love and her pain. Cake fills her gaps, sates her sadness, feeds her lustful fantasies until it seems she cannot discern the difference between dream and reality.

There are some charming and joyful moments Cake and the music and movement create an abstract quality that is often effective. Pill’s poetic language is often enjoyable but its meaning is sometimes opaque. With Barry, she dances adroitly around cakes and writhes on floured floor and table. Songs in various languages are gently entertaining and Barry’s musical accompaniment on xylophone, keyboard and cello provides another emotional layer.

Pill is an engaging performer. She has the ethereal quality and pale looks of a Jane Austen heroine and this lightness of being gives the show an other-worldliness. This mysterious quality is beautifully enhanced by Geoff Cobham’s lighting.

The piece pushes the relationship between eating cake and satisfying sadness perhaps a little too forcefully. When the woman leaves her partner she stops craving both cake and the baker-boy. Simplistic? Perhaps, but simple satisfactions are not to be sneezed at, are they? Especially cakey ones.

By Kate Herbert

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