ON STAGE REVIEW: Foodwork (Network) ★★★★★

The National Theatre, London
February 3rd 2018

The National Theatre has always been a platform for works of art in every form to be produced like no other theatre can achieve in London, but with one of their latest productions, Network, starring Bryan Cranston, something even more special is happening, as though on-stage seating is nothing new to the industry, to which 'People, Places, and Things' have proved this before at The National, being on stage engaged in the production whilst delving into a five course meal throughout is something of a revolution, and one that I feel humbled and proud to say that I experience on my visit to watch Network, so much that even though I have booked myself a ticket to watch from the auditorium in a months time, I am going to decline the visit to be able to enhance and remember this truly memorable experience.

Entering the auditorium around 25 minutes before the auditorium opened for the audience, dressed all in dark clothing to make sure there were no distractions during the performance, we, the diners on this matinee performance, were guided to our table thanks to the professional restaurant staff and told that we could take photos on stage right up to the moment before the production was to begin. I cannot begin to explain just how exciting it was to stand on the Lyttelton stage whilst the actors/characters were mulling around on stage felt; it was truly remarkable, and making our way back to our designated tables did we come to our first course, which was Butternut Squash, Crispy Shallots & Kale, along with a ‘Mad as Hell’ cocktail, especially made for this production, and before long, the countdown which was a constant feature on the wall hit 60 seconds and the whole stage completely burst into action with up to 12 actors rushing around the stage to prepare their news bulletin with Howard Beale (Bryan Cranston). It was astonishing, coming from someone who is studying theatre at drama school, to see the mechanics of how everything came together, as this production also uses live footage almost constantly throughout, and just how much effort must of gone in to make this all possible, especially, without giving too much away, a certain scene which is set on the exterior to the theatre itself. At one point during the production, which had no interval, Cranston walked through the restaurant, which is placed stage right if looking on from the audience, to deliver a speech so powerful that I almost forgot I was in the room with hundreds of people around us.

Back to the food, and compliments to the chefs, Simon Flint, Justin Hammett, and Polis Butkus, for producing the finest dining experiences I have ever been a part of, especially when it came to the main meal, Short Rib & Ox Cheek Bourguignon, which was divine and cooked to perfection. The distribution of meals to every table to spectacularly delivered with pristine precision thanks to all involved, and done so in perfectly timed moments intertwined with the action occurring on stage. Some moments also were very surreal, especially given times were the actors were actually embodied in the restaurant, with scenes involving Beale (Cranston), Max Schumacher (Douglas Henshall) and Diana Christensen (Michelle Dockery). As the climax to the production erupted on stage, the tension in the room was a moment I shall not forget for a long time, as every single member of the Network company, restaurant and acting company alike, put on a performance which If i was to express any further would ruin the suspense that future theatre-goers will be compelled to feel in these final moments.

Overall, Foodwork was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I shall never forget; intertwined with one of the most technically astonishing productions I have seen of late, the hospitality and guidance from all involved at the theatre is just why I love coming back to The National, and long shall that continue.


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