Riddled with pop culture and musical references, Pass the Salt, brainchild of writer and co-director Simon C. Lamb, is a whimsical, comedic adventure set in an Italian restaurant owned by Signor Serrano (Joseph Hartropp). The story follows the increasingly madcap antics of the restaurant’s staff, Dimitri (David Portmore) and Fletcher (Philip Cleary), as well as its patrons, a wide and colourful range of characters.
While each member of the ensemble should be applauded for their strong individual efforts, actors of particular note were Ali Duncan-Young as the theatre critic Ms Sondheimer and Simon Lamb as old Gilbert MacSporran. Indeed, Duncan-Young received a spirited round of applause for her hilarious and impassioned monologue, a vocalized theatre review that dripped so caustically with disdain and hatred for Teddy Cotton (Alistair Cobbold) that it could barely be heard over the roar of the audience’s laughter. Amazed congratulations also go out to Lamb, not only for his ability to write, co-direct, and star in the show simultaneously, but also for his performance as the hysterically cheeky Gilbert, a man as saucy as his meatballs and twice as lovable.
Although the performance as a whole was a theatrical and comedic success, the show kicked off to a bit of a rocky start. Technical problems, rushed lines, and a general sense of confusion pervaded the opening scene – but not for long. Despite the strength of each actor individually, the overall dynamic as a group occasionally fell flat. At times a disconnection between actors could be felt, during which dialogues felt like a series of delivered lines rather than an actual conversation. Additionally, the incorporation of several multiple sound and music tracks and monologue spotlights made the show a more layered and interesting experience. However, due to the added difficulties of these cues, the show fell victim to the occasional mistimed music track, misplaced light. However, as all of these errors were few and increasingly infrequent as the show progressed, most of the fault can be chalked up to opening night jitters. The show quickly found its rhythm, and soon achieved its full comedic potential.
The show, much like this review, ends with an exploration into the relationships between reviewer and reviewee, in both worlds of theatre and restaurant. The finale monologue of Violet Smith (Tara Rose Cassano) struck a particular chord with me; as a playwright and actress looking for a comeback, Smith claims that she defines herself by an evaluation by an almighty critic. For a brief moment, the play breaks from its steady stream of comedy to expound the dangers of the power dynamic between performers and critics. In the end, previously silent Tina the Cleaner (Helena Jaques-Morton) used her final and only words to emphasize the raw truth about theatre criticism: a critic is a single person whose opinions are truly no more valid than that of another audience member, but who, by some strange stroke of fate, has gained to power to make or break lives and careers.
With this mantra as the show’s final message, Pass the Salt proved itself more substantial than just two hours of slapstick and music. The show is simultaneously honest and hilarious, and in this, the show finds its success. The actors, playing a bevy of lovable and colourful characters, fully throw themselves into the madcap antics of the story. Lamb and Illsley, along with producer Neil Christy, concocted a triumphant blend of musical theatre, pop hits, and comedy, seasoning it perfectly with an energetic and dynamic ensemble.
You can catch the second and final showing of Pass the Salt tonight, Monday 8 April, at 7.30pm in Venue 1.