Reviewer: Lucy Thackray
Piece of Meat is a fun show. From its description you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is the sort of one-woman show that only works in a specific off-Broadway context and might be a bit indulgent and, well, American for us cynical West Enders. Luckily, musical theatre star Sherie Rene Scott has the charm, the wit and the energy to pull it off.
She kicks off the show, unexpectedly, with an upbeat rendition of Noah and the Whale’s 5 Years Time, and barely pauses for breath for the next hour or so. Piece of Meat is about desire – the lusty infatuation kind, the desire to live and experience things and – to paraphrase Ms Scott – wanting to shove your face in a stranger’s kebab after years of being a vegetarian. Maybe we haven’t all been there, but we certainly want to hear more.
The songs (a mix of pop covers and original compositions by Scott and composer Todd Almond, who provides vocals and the incredibly sensitive and effective musical direction here) are effortlessly delivered and the stories between told with great warmth and comic timing. Sometimes it’s hard to see where the tracks come into the story – the plot seems sacrificed at times to the inclusion of some favourite numbers – but every line and note is acted with such commitment that it’s a little hypnotic. During one of the odder stories, involving a giant grouper fish and a Rastafarian, you could’ve heard a pin drop – odd for an informal cabaret venue like the Matcham. The show has also been tailored to the London crowd, with both Mini Cheddars and Hull getting a shout out in the chatty sections. There is a ditziness to Scott’s delivery, though, that seems at odds with a person incisive and witty enough to have put this show together.
The band of three (piano/ukulele, double bass and orchestral percussion) provides seamless underscoring and real moments of magic. Todd Almond is included in the vocals and dialogue now and again, but could be better integrated perhaps. But with a voice like Sherie’s – still distinctive, with notes of blues, rock and country in there, and mellowed since her well-known performance as Cathy in The Last 5 Years – it’s hard not to just give up any pedantry and go along for the ride. With a conscience that’s part Paul McCartney, part Dalai Lama, a rocking body and a flair for comedy, Sherie Rene Scott puts on a seriously good show.
Runs until 23 February at the Matcham Room in the Hippodrome Casino. http://hippodromecasino.com/