Writer: Gillian Greer
Director: Lucy Jane Atkinson
This smart new drama by Gillian Greer about sexual assault is finely presented by director Lucy Jane Atkinson and her crack team. It looks slick, sounds wonderful and, as the title suggests, it has plenty of meat on its bones.
Max has gone to meet her ex-boyfriend Ronan at his fancy meat restaurant in Dublin where the mantra appears to be ‘Vegetarian? Feck off! Vegan? Feck off!’ Ronan wants to show off his dishes – cruelty-free foie gras and bacon ice cream – but Max has come to warn him that he is to appear in her autobiography that is about to be published. Something happened when they were dating in their teens, something to do with sex, something to do with consent.
Throughout the evening, and throughout the dinner that they eventually have, the two discuss the incident. Max isn’t after revenge: she recognises that Ronan ‘is a good man who did a shit thing’, but she needs to confront him. For closure? For healing? It’s not clear. And as the drink disappears, it becomes apparent that the two still share some sexual chemistry. This is real life, and there are no heroes or villains.
As Max, India Mullen is extraordinarily good, fully representing youthful self-importance, slightly unlikeable in her mission to expose every detail of her life to her online followers. It’s a tough role involving a surprisingly degree of physicality, and Mullen deals with it all. As Ronan, Sean Fox plays the lad-turned-hipster well, cheeky and passionate; only the fact that he rarely looks up from his plate, and hardly ever turns his eyes to the fourth wall, suggests that he is shifting secrets in his head.
They are joined on stage by Jo, the icy manager of the restaurant. Elinor Lawless has fun with the frostiness and allows Jo to thaw towards the end of the play, but she can’t conceal the idea that Meat should really be a two-hander, and sometimes Jo has little to do but watch or moan.
Rachel Stone’s set is exquisite. Two half-butchered animals hang at the back of the restaurant, the pig’s tail left intact. Fashionable stone floors and a mixture of stone walls and country-green painted walls make up the dining room. Stone pays attention to every detail like the individual light fittings that illuminate the photographs of raw meat. The light design is provided by Zia Bergin-Holly, and it finds perfectly the unforgiving brightness of trendy restaurants. The hum of traffic is sometimes overwhelmed by heartbeats in Annie May Fletcher’s ominous sound design.
As director, Atkinson adds touches that intrigue and distance the audience in equal measures, and she very carefully prepares for the disaster to come. Greer’s play explores the messiness of life, and Atkinson is unafraid to get her stage messy too. Meat is played on the edge of a butcher’s cleaver.
There’s only one problem really. Surely, in such a stylish eatery there would be more upmarket wines than pinot grigio? A nice Chassagne-Montrachet would be more like it.
Runs until 14 March 2020