As the caffeine levels increase and you approach the final week of the Festival Fringe, it is a fair observation to make that your shock tolerance increases. What may have startled you on day four barely makes a dent – at this stage you’ve seen it all before, right? Then, along comes Meatball Séance and you’re forced to recalibrate your judgement...
A supernatural journey through the elusive lands of raw garlic, grief and Fleetwood Mac
John Michael bounces onto the stage, apron-clad (and I mean only apron-clad) and ecstatic. “I have a BOYFRIEND,” he screams into the slightly bewildered audience. It seems that things are looking up for our host, until we discover that his mother passed away a short while ago and there is nothing that can be done to satisfy his wish that the two meet.
So begins the meatball séance: a re-creation of his late mother’s infamous recipe guaranteed to summon her back from the dead in preparation for their introduction. With the help of the audience, together we embark on a supernatural journey through the elusive lands of raw garlic cloves, grief and Fleetwood Mac.
Much of the humour comes from absurdist audience interaction, and whilst participants are consenting, the predominant punchline consists of the lengths to which John Michael will go to shock. And spoiler alert: it’s quite far. What is branded as subversive participation is ultimately a more extreme version of the usual, with the audience providing the perplexed energy force with which the otherworld may be contacted.
Unfortunately, what starts out as intriguing soon becomes grating, and the preposterousness of the storyline quickly becomes too farcical for its own good. Though John Michael is admirable in his ability to remain engaging for the duration of the entire performance, it is simply not enough to sustain interest without the backing of a fully-fleshed narrative.
Admirable in its intent, Meatball Séance is a bizarre but ultimately confounded performance that blurs the distinction between mourning and humour. Though John Michael makes for a talented performer, it might be worth pursuing the vegan option next time.