“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 deem it fit for human consumption.
As Buck Matthews ascends the corporate ladder at Meatbox Incorporated, he must come to terms with the morally-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.