Review: Hang at the Royal Court Theatre
Review: The RSC's muscular Othello

Review: The deliciously lyrical and poignant Chef @sohotheatre

Chef, Ed Fringe 2014, courtesy Richard Davenport 010
Jade Anouka in Chef courtesy of Richard Davenport

The last time I saw Jade Anouka on stage she was adding tragedy to hot-headed Hotspur in the all female Henry IV at the Donmar. Here in Sabrina Mahfouz's Chef she once again gets a chance to shine, this time in a solo performance which she's reprised having won the Fringe First Award in Edinburgh last year.

This is the story of a passion for food and cooking that puts a young woman on the path to success and fulfillment only to end up as a convicted inmate. Set in the prison kitchen the rise and fall is told with a mixture of beautiful evocative lyricism and tough, sometimes brutal, contemporary realism.

It is a play and a performance that holds you rapt from the moment Anouka writes 'Perfect peach' on the kitchen white board and then has you salivating as she describes how it should be treated and prepared and how it should taste.

The passion and skill with food come across immediately which makes the setting for the story all the more the tragic. Mahfouz keeps you guessing as to just where she is going with tale and that's part of what makes it so compelling. Anouka slips easily from the poetry of foodie passion, to philosophical musings and re-enactments of events in the past with its street-wise patter. There is both an energy and stillness to her performance that is almost hypnotic to watch.

Chef leaves you a little bit breathless in the end and certainly whets your appetite - at least there are plenty of restaurants to fall into after the curtain comes down. It is about 50 minutes straight through and you can catch it upstairs at the Soho Theatre until July 4.