Roll-call ... Kate Box and Emma Jackson. Photo: James Brickwood
Move over, MasterChef. Audiences can expect food preparation and heady cooking smells in Belvoir's next production, simply titled Food, in the downstairs theatre.
But it's not all about food, actor and playwright Steve Rodgers says. It's mostly about sex.
''It's really about wanting,'' he says. ''Wanting intimacy with people, wanting the love and sex that feeds you and that can complete you. But also it's about our relationships with food and our need to find the things that fulfil us and settle us.''
Steve Rodgers with co-director Kate Champion. Photo: James Brickwood
The play is focused on two sisters working in a takeaway joint on a highway at the edge of a country town - the kind of place truckers pull into for a ciggie and a Chiko Roll. The sisters grew up here. But Nancy (Emma Jackson) ran off at 15, chasing sex and freedom, only returning 17 years later. Elma (Kate Box) stayed and cooked, looking after their dying mother. Together they try to start afresh.
Rodgers says the idea came partly from a trip home to Launceston, where he met up with a girl with whom he attended high school.
''We were having a conversation about our life at school in terms of what experiences we'd had sexually and she said, 'I wonder why we were so quick to want to experience everything?' That really stayed with me,'' he says.
''And there was a fish and chip shop on the West Tamar Highway that I used to go to on a Sunday. The sisters there were a bit rough, there was a lot of smoking and they seemed dangerous. People said one of them was 'easy'.
''But then the play also has complex ideas about food and consumption and controlling food, and how that relates to intimacy.''
Rodgers, a stage, television and film actor for more than 20 years, had his first full-length play, Ray's Tempest, shortlisted for the Patrick White Playwrights' Award in 2007. His second play, Savage River, was included in Griffin Theatre's 2009 season and was nominated for best new Australian work in the Sydney Theatre Awards.
He also writes for TV and is working on a film script. For Food, Rodgers says, he wanted to work with the artistic director of Force Majeure, choreographer Kate Champion, because some of the best plays he's seen draw on other art forms. ''There is no dance,'' he says. ''But there is that 'force majeure' magic, where you think, 'Oh, that's beautiful.' There's a beauty beyond the storytelling.''
Champion says it would be odd to insert a dance sequence into the text.
Instead, she aims for something more poetic or metaphorical. ''Sometimes words can't quite describe the feeling and a movement gives it subtext,'' Champion says.
''Or a movement gets you out of the reality of a moment - it frees up the form - but then you have to get back into the reality.
''And then, sometimes, words just say it perfectly.''
Box says the two sisters have come from a ''rough as guts'' family who hide their feelings. ''Elma's heart might be breaking but the Chiko Rolls won't f---ing fry themselves,'' she laughs. ''She uses the preparation of food to create order in her life. Nancy has done the same with sex.''
Jackson: ''It's almost voyeuristic. The audience will feel like a fly on the wall while these characters try to exist in the space together …''
'' … while they're making chips!'' Box says.
Rodgers says the play is funny and uplifting. ''The audience will feel that no matter how far apart you may have drifted from family or your past, it's going to be OK, you can come back together. The play ends with a kind of communion, a literal breaking of bread. Some of the audience might even get fed.''
April 26-May 20, Tuesday 7pm, Wednesday-Saturday 8.15pm, Saturday 2.15pm, Sunday 5.15pm. Belvoir Downstairs Theatre, 25 Belvoir Street, Surry Hills.
TICKETS 9699 3444 or belvoir.com.au, $32-$42.
TRAVEL Short walk from bus and train services at Central Station. Limited one-hour street parking available.
SHOW Food, sex and longing in a fish-and-chip shop on a lonely highway.
STARS Kate Box, Emma Jackson, Fayssal Bazzi.
CO-DIRECTORS Kate Champion and Steve Rodgers.