Review – Pass the Spoon

Apr 26 2012 | By More

★★★★★   Dancin’

Traverse Theatre: to Sat 28 April 2012.
Review by ThomDibdin

As unexpected groovy treats go, Pass the Spoon – at the Traverse until Saturday night – is right up there with the tip top best.

I’d always thought this “sort of opera”, a collaboration between composer David Fennessy, designer David Shrigley and director Nicholas Bone, would be worth a look – just from the sound of it. Anything which puts Magnetic North with the Red Note Ensemble is bound to be interesting.

Pauline Knowles and Stewart Cairns interrogate the vegetables – with the Red Note Ensemble in Pass The Spoon. Photo: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

But nobody had actively warned me of the reality.

Here’s a cookery game show – with the wonderful Pauline Knowles as the super-sneering host June Spoon and the irrepressible Stewart Cairns as her sidekick Philip Fork. On stage, the Red Note Ensemble – all dressed as chefs – provide the music.

Knowles and Cairns are a fantastic pair – taking all the chit chat and superficial artifice of the daytime live audience chat show and swinging it round into an outrageously pseudo-allegorical format. Their task today is to create a meal for Mr Granules. Who just happens to be a baby-eating giant – allegedly.

Their interrogation of the vegetables as to their suitability for the pot is so severe its a wonder June Spoon doesn’t start water-boarding the turnip. A trip to see Peter Van Hulle’s priest-like Butcher takes place with all the reverence and we-are-not-worthy fervour of a religious experience.

All that, and a dancing jobby

But it is Martin McCormick as a supercilious talking Banana: the voice of reason and exotic fruit, who first takes this up into another level of weirdness. If you weren’t in a theatre you’d definitely begin to be worried about what someone might have slipped into the fruit punch.

McCormick is quick to upstage himself, however, when Banana opens a huge red fridge to reveal Gavin Mitchell as a giant Egg. Humpty Dumpty eat your pallid heart out – Mitchell’s alcoholic, manic-depressive singing egg is the biggest, brightest yolk in the egg box and absolutely no mistake.

It’s top absurdist stuff, all directed by Nicholas Bone with precise attention to timing and pace. Shrigley’s designs – bringing three dimensions to his usual quirky sketches – allows the plot to consume everything before it. And Fennessy’s score is brilliantly performed by Red Note in all its bizarre glory as it swings from operatic diversion to modern percussive ritual to jazzy piece of swing.

All that, and a dancing jobby scene in which Gavin Mitchell proves beyond all doubt that he is the most versatile actor alive as the singing turd attempts to seduce June Spoon to parts around the bend.

A work of unbridled genius.

Running time: 1 hour 10 mins.


Edinburgh Traverse run ends Saturday 28 April 2012
Shows: daily 7.30pm.
Traverse Theatre website:

London Southbank Centre, run 5 and 6 May 2012
Shows: daily 7.30pm
Southbank Centre website:

Magnetic North website:

Red Note Ensemble website:

The libretto is available to buy on Amazon here: David Shrigley: Pass the Spoon: A Sort-Of-Opera About Cookery


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  1. Thank you for the review! Can’t wait to see ‘Pass the Spoon’ in London!