7th - 27th August
“Get ready to ‘meat’ Buck Mathews.” So reads the opening line of the blurb for US Beef, a production that explores the ethics of the meatpacking industry. Tempting as it would be to fill the remainder of this review with similar puns, the truth is that you wouldn’t serve US Beef to your dog, let alone pass it fit for human consumption.
As Buck Matthews ascends the corporate ladder at Meatbox Incorporated, he must come to terms with the questionable working conditions, environmental issues and moral bankruptcy of the industry. US Beef may sound like the handiwork of radical vegans, but judging by the number of burgers demolished by the cast during the 50-minute production, it’s just as likely to have been financed by McDonald’s. And therein lies the intractable problem at the heart of this production: is it a cautionary tale about corporate greed? A searing indictment on the US meatpacking industry? A moralistic lesson on the value of converting to a diet of chickpeas and granola?
The sermonising over the dangers of the meatpacking industry feels ham-fisted, and for once this isn’t an attempt to squeeze in another carnivorous pun. By the end of the play, Buck is still working at the plant, but has now turned vegan, because as we all know, the US slaughterhouse trade is run by quiche-eating liberals.
US Beef ain’t baloney, but neither is it rump steak. The cast act, sing and occasionally improvise their hearts out, but to no avail. I left unsure whether I was expected to embrace veganism or hit up Burger King for a Bacon Double Whopper. In the end I did neither, electing instead to go home and pen a disappointed review.
Since our last attempt at a rating system (scoring video games out of 79) was such a raging success, we’ve decided to adopt an entirely new system for the Fringe: each show’s rating will be represented as a shooped reaction face. Of a cat. Because…well, just because. We’ve got an entire folder of this cat’s RFs, and it seems only right to put them to good use, helping people make an informed decision about the merits of each show. Let kitty be your guide, cos that’s as close to a rating system as you’re gonna get.