To start Silent Meat feels like your standard contemporary play, a monolgue-esque story with amusing metaphors and heartwarming storytelling, but then the play morphs into something much deeper and more powerful. The multiple plots—a son’s relationship, a mother’s chronic illness, a father's obsession with true crime and a vlogger's life with her Israeli boyfriend—feel sporadic, but pull together into a beautifully constructed elegy to grief and the randomness that occurs in the face of death.
Whilst the space of the Tristan Bates Theatre is small and the props are little more developed than a primary school production, the fantastic acting and script more than makes up for the lack of production. The actors each embody the ticks of their characters; from awkward hand gestures to original metaphors and amusing accents, they create striking and original portraits. This play does as much with a skeleton cast and props as some do with a broadway theatre.
Whilst the multiple plotlines were predominantely weaved together effectively, the story of the Israeli soldier, who had little relation to the main characters, other than being a friend of the son of the family, did not seem so interlinked. Whilst it was interesting, I felt this storyline would be better served in a different context. Moreover, highlighting the difficulties of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in a play mainly about people from Dorset, seemed a poor choice.
In the final scene of the play the main character points out how LGBT+ stories always end in sadness and then turns around to a happy ending himself. Whilst I empathise with the writer's attempt to subvert the trope of non-heterosexual romances ending tragically, I found this undercut the play; the audience had just witnessed a funeral for another gay character and the straight couple in the play had just got engaged. This juxtaposition seemed to undermine the point the writer was trying to make in subverting the cliché tragic ending for gay characters. Ultimately, this play failed to subvert this trope, despite the author's best intentions.
Overall, Silent Meat is an incredible play about trying to understand death. Whilst it has some prominent issues in the plot, I am excited to see David Levesley’s continuation of this piece and his future works.
Silent Meat was on at the Tristan Bates Theatre. You can read more about David Levesley's work here.
Edited by Evangeline Stanford, Digital Editor