“Your wish is our consommé” chime the attendants, darting this way and that, bending to the whims and desires of a critic not to be appeased. A canapé of delights? A hearty mash-up? Espresso shots of absurdity, perhaps? It is difficult to know where to begin with Table for None, the third and latest sketch show by Foregone Confusion. Little in my reflections does it justice; neither a pithy turn of phrase nor the mumbo jumbo scribbled on the back of my programme. It is, in its own way, a meal combining all kinds of “comic ingredients”, and flavours ranging from savoury to sweet – be it black comedy to the surreal, observational humour to witty satire. And indeed, let it be known that this is no mean feat – “cookery is a tough beast, like I don’t know… comedy?” And yes, the comparison is apt; so let’s return to the French soup before it gets cold. Rich and concentrated, but clear and blended – this is a production as intelligent as it is funny. It combines feeling with silliness, tragedy with farce pound-for-pound and in equal measure. Advertised as “sixty-six minutes of comedic bliss”, Foregone Confusion is offering up the pièce de résistance, and you won’t be disappointed.
The opening salvo, ‘the critic’s here! – Most likely to shut our asses down…’ very much set the tone for the evening. It was a challenge, both to myself and to the audience. You want to be entertained; we want to entertain you – that very tension in of itself is a comedian’s gold mine. Loosely structured around “the tragic tale of the last restaurant in the world”, the narratives jumps from sketch-to-sketch, sporadically revisiting the sweaty kitchen and saloon. Notoriously unsatisfiable, ‘the Critic’ has launched a crusade against every bistro, brasserie, coffeehouse and smörgåsbord restaurant going. Sapping the joy out of dining and tarnishing reputations, he has singlehandedly dismantled the catering industry as we know it. This is cooking’s last stand.
Ordering à la carte, some sketch scenes of particular highlight to me were the trip to museum which ends disastrously in the breaking of the precious artefact, ‘character’, and tearing down of ‘the fourth wall.’ Added to the organised chaos, we have an elderly man lumber across the stage, over and back, howling in agony, “someone just walked on my grave!” as he traverses a certain point. He does once, twice, thrice – eventually quickening the speed and narrowing the distance, oscillating around that spot before he collapses into a heap, and dying. However, not all the humour is ‘out there’, or avant garde. Sketches involving a pedant mispronouncing every word that comes out of his mouth whenever his friend fumbles on a single word and the contrapuntal English creative-writing lesson are, quite frankly, master classes in dialogue. Simple scenes too, like the one where a character annoyingly begins munching away just as he’s asked a question, never fail to amuse. Spoofs of high-energy television adverts (on cocaine) and the all-American family sitcom, represented by ‘The Sherwoods’, also add to the never-ending variety. Meanwhile, an hilarious recasting of Postman Pat as Post-Menopausal Pat, Post-Mortem Pat, Post-Apartheid Pat, Post-Modern Pat and First-Past-the-Post Pat demonstrate the indefatigable creativity of the troop.
All in all, this is a show with some stellar performances and top-notch writing. Admittedly, some of the sketches are better crafted than others, but that is only to be expected. Foregone Confusion deserves a well-earned “Post-Man-Pat-on-the-Back”, and I eagerly anticipate future projects. At £7/5 (student/concession) some potential theatregoers may be put-off by the bang for one’s buck; that is, given the hour-long runtime. Nevertheless, not a moment goes to waste and there was not a dry eye in the house by the end. Each scene was met with a thunderous round of applause, as well as fits and bursts of laughter. If Foregone Confusion can build upon this, developing and tightening their narrative structure, and filling out the stage production, they can only go from strength to strength. For now, it’s three juicy Michelin stars.