New writer Jimmy Osbourne's Meat certainly has plenty of guts, but the writing is not as clean and crisp as it could be. The premiere production also could do with some refinement - some acting missteps mar an otherwise slick production - but this is still an encouraging outing for FallOut Theatre.
In Meat, Vincent and Joy's life is disrupted by the death of local lad Rob. Vincent, who is a local butcher and had a run-in with the yobbish Rob all too recently, soon admits that he is the culprit to Joy. However, as fervour in the town builds in their search for a scapegoat, partially thanks to the involvement of their daughter Carla, their relationship is tested - and what exactly happened to drive Vincent to kill?
The script here could do with a little trimming - the story seems to meander around a plot, but there's too much going on, too much detail and too many extraneous scenes that slow the pace. The whodunnit plot arc closes too quickly with Vincent admitting his guilt, at which point the shared complicity between Vincent and Joy doesn't so much drive forward as flounder through their various relationship issues. It's potentially very true to life, but what this play is missing is a solid through-line - I'd have liked to see this shorter and a lot sharper!
There's also an issue with the lines themselves - there are too many lines that state character intentions and drives. Too often, a scene finishes with a character exclaiming what just happened within the scene; this seems to be a problem an awful lot of new writing suffers from, but it's particularly noticeable when the pace is so erratic, although that may be down to the performers more than the script.
Graham Turner, in particular, seems to chafe with the script, stumbling through his lines with odd pauses. His characterisation of Vincent is very believable, but the lines don't seem to sit well with him, trickling out in fits and starts. Tracy Babin and Charlotte Whitaker seem to have a much better time as Joy and Carla, with Whitaker in particular standing out as the Northern lass with iron resolve. Ian Weichardt has less to do as the wayward Rob, often serving as a transitioning device, although he does have one or two scenes with promise.
The main star here, potentially, is the exceptional design job by James Cotterill - his combination abbatoir/kitchen manages to contain enough elements of both to function as either. The predominant red/white colour scheme is very striking, and the use of red foam instead of liquid blood is a clever device. If only everything else matched up to this standard!
But it doesn't. The script needs to be tighter - there's too much fat that needs trimming - and there's some performance issues that need to be ironed out. Maybe a workshop or two would have developed this further - as such, it doesn't feel ready for a full-scale production.