Out to Lunch

The food’s great in Edinburgh, isn’t it? You’ve got all those stalls selling gourmet hot dogs and falafel, every venue has its own cafe - I’m even sitting in a coffee shop to write this review. Yet you don’t really think about it, do you? What it means to have so much food on offer, to be able to leave half a plate when you’re not hungry, to have the option of being not hungry? We’ve learned to be aware of the way we consume energy, the way we consume resources, but food - because it tastes so good - is a bit of a cultural blind spot.

Jack Klaff, the remarkable performer of Out to Lunch, is very concerned with hunger and emptiness. Even the venue he has chosen for his show, the kind of church hall where they hold scouts meetings and school plays, is, as he points out, a looming empty space. His show doesn’t really have a story: it mostly - though not exclusively - takes the form of a conversation he had with two friends when making a trip to his home country, South Africa. One of the people he’s talking to is Belgian, full of guilt for colonialism and shocked at the hunger she has seen in Chad. The other is another South African, with whom Klaff played as a child, who now works for the UN. He is angry about Western intervention in his country, the hunger that bungling philanthropy causes.

Klaff reproduces their two voices perfectly, changing accent and pitch, but never making them sound like caricatures. So fine-tuned is his performance that you almost forget you are watching one man and simply become absorbed in the conversation. Very occasionally you feel like you’re just listening in on someone else’s argument, though for the most part Klaff’s choice of format works well, raising questions without providing answers.

It is Klaff’s ability to say ‘I don’t know’ that makes this show so impressive. All too often, theatre that asks the audience to engage with global politics becomes dully didactic. Out to Lunch never forces an opinion on you. It never tells you the things you must think and must do in order to be in the right. It’s infinitely more subtle than that. Klaff acknowledges (with frustration) that there doesn’t seem to be any clear solution to the problems of hunger that his show engages with. Instead, he asks the audience simply to be aware of the situation, to acknowledge it, to be conscientious and intelligent. It’s a challenge we should all be able to rise to.

Reviews by Hannah Mirsky

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
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Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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Performances

The Blurb

A satire about eating and charity by an award-winning storyteller. In the belly of a vast, empty space, Klaff shows how to feed the world, spearing celebrities, speculators, supermarkets, supermodels and statesmen with customary versatility, poetry and relish.

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