Review: Pancake Opus

When the kitchen becomes a microcosm of life, loneliness and love

By Narelle Wood 

There was something about the description of this show – a show about courage, loneliness, love and pancakes – that I found very intriguing. Not entirely sure exactly what to expect, one thing was clear, thanks to a spectacular looking mini-kitchen in the centre of the room: it was definitely about pancakes.

For the next 60 minutes Sandra Fiona Long invites us into her kitchen full of poetic monologues, retro kitchen appliances, reflections on childhood, motherhood and cooking. Long samples parts of her orations and singing as she goes along and these provide a multi-layered backdrop to the ponderings and musings that make up this show.

As Long contemplates what her signature cake might be, at the same time as juggling nagging children and internet dating, I can’t help but think that this could very well be a far more honest, artful and interesting version of Master Chef, with the only harsh critic being the voice that we often find in our head. The same voice that Long draws upon to explore issues of inadequacy, loneliness and loss.

There were sometimes that I found it a little hard to hear Long, mostly due to volume of the background track and the number of different layers all happening at once. That been said, the mixing of the multiple voices, constructed by Raya Slavin, provided a poignant reminder of the complexities happening on stage. The mini-kitchen designed by Bronwyn Pringle and Emily Barrie could be considered an art installation in and of itself – complete with hanging pots and pans and a tea-towel tablecloth. The kitchen provided the perfect stage for the other stars of the show – the cooking utensils and ingredients – which came with an ingenious lighting design all of their own.

The show finishes with audience participation, something that I normally loath. If you are theatre-participation-phobic you needn’t worry, it is non-threatening and even I was willing to get involved. Overall, I must admit I am more comfortable with theatre that might be considered more traditional than Pancake Opus. But there is something extremely relatable about both the themes of the show and Long herself. And it’s about pancakes, who doesn’t love pancakes?

Pankcake Opus is being performed at Arts House, North Melbourne until 10 June.  Tickets can be purchased online.

Photograph: Peter Casamento