Sam Frankie Fox – The Hand That Feeds – Getting Stuck In
From within the rehearsal process: getting stuck in
By Sam Frankie Fox
What’s Food Crime? Is it when your dad steals your chips?”
This was a question posed to me by a friend when I announced that I would be involved in The Hand That Feeds. Well yes, true. That is a food crime. But the scale of crime we’re tackling in this production is a little more complex than deep-fried- potato-thievery! At least you can elbow your dad and steal a chip back. When it comes to adulterated food and contaminated products it’s a bit harder to detect what crime has taken place, who’s responsible, and how to hold those that are accountable to account.
So we the performers, under the direction of Graeme Rose, are tasked with the job of bringing some of the characters involved with, and effected by food crime to life, on stage, in an outdoor setting. With some previous development days already behind us, in total we have a fortnight to pull this off. So we’ve been getting stuck in.
Mez Packer and Sara Colman furnished the team with a colourful script and score centred around a protagonist called Robbie. He’s an everyman, a family-man, a tradesman. His work involves the buying and selling of food and he just wants to make a decent living so that he can provide for his family. He hasn’t given much thought to the people and characters that sell to him, or those that buy from him. As the story unfolds he witnesses and experiences the reality of his part in the chain.
Along the way he comes into contact with all sorts of weird, wonderful, untrustworthy and more wholesome characters, ranging from; a conscientious organic food consumer, some scrupulous environmental health officers, to a shady gangster. These experiences culminate in a grand wake up call for Robbie.
My co-actor Anthony Miles will be playing the mains Robbie, and I’ll be playing a lot of the side dishes. We’ve had a lot of fun experimenting with characterisations in the rehearsal room. The challenge is to make these characters believable as well as entertaining. We think that the trick is to be bold and brazen whilst offering something that the audience can really connect with and chew on.
The community choir are the glue that will hold all of these characters together. Not only will members of the Castle Vale Choir be offering their vocal skills, but some of them will be acting too, stepping centre stage to get involved in the action. Sometimes they will play a character, with us actor-musicians being their voice, and sometimes they will voice the action or act as the internal monologue or voice of reason. All of this will be accompanied by live musicians Al Gurr, Xhosa Cole and Sara Colman. The result will hopefully be a dance between music, character and chorus.
As well as acting and singing we’ll also be trying out a smidge of dancing. Today we had a workshop with championship ballroom dancer Hannah Hind. She came to work with us on our poise, our flair and footwork, and we’ll be employing some of her killer moves on a particular song entitled The Blackest Marketeer. Must remember to slow slow, quick, quick, slow. Slow, quick, quick, slow!
So we’ve got lots of singing, a bit of dancing, a load of boxes, plenty of hats and props, an important message, and an exquisite site to share it all in.
Most challenging and exciting of all is the site; St Martin’s in the Bull Ring. We’ll need to connect with an audience that have come along especially as well as an unsuspecting crowd, in an outdoor space, on a busy Saturday lunchtime, smack bang in the city centre. It’s a transitory place. Some people will be there to potter about the high street shops, to window shop, buy and browse, while others will be stocking up on food for the week from the Bull Ring food market. We’ll need to make a bold offering. One that grabs attention and entertains as much as it informs. If the audience leave with the simple message “HASHTAG: STOP FOOD CRIME” then we’ll have done our job.
Sam Frankie Fox – Narrativium Engineer – Performer
More The Hand That Feeds… team posts
“The Hand That Feeds – a musical about food crime” is being staged on the steps of St Martin in the Bullring, Birmingham city centre – Saturday 14th May at 12 noon and again at 2.30pm.
Those that register for #StopFoodCrime-fighter goodie bags can collect them before and after the performances.