Review: Bacon Knees and Sausage Fingers, Alphabetti Theatre

A three-week run of Bacon Knees and Sausage Fingers at Newcastle’s Alphabetti Theatre is well underway. Sam Wonfor saw the play on Tuesday night and is still thinking about it (doesn’t matter when you’re reading this; this play’s never leaving her).

A week before Bacon Knees and Sausage Fingers opened, I interrupted rehearsals to find out more about what audiences would be in for.

I talked to writer/actors Gary Kitching and Steve Byron and director Ali Pritchard for a good while and came away thinking I’d discovered rather a lot about the story they were going to be telling.

It was to be a play about difference. About two outsiders who meet on the High Level Bridge. One would have a dog and a suitcase; the other would have bacon on his knees. The audience would be expected to imagine all of this. We’d find out about what had gone before in their respective lives. It would be harrowing. Heartbreaking. Hilarious.¬† We’d also see what happened after they met on the bridge play out. And I was assured we’d be left with hope – or at least some hope that there was hope.

After seeing it, I can report that while all of the above was 100% accurate, it also 100% failed to prepare me for how blown away I would be by this brilliant and devastating play.

Laying bare the cruel ways society can and does deal with those who are different, it’s by no means an easy watch, but it’s one which should be seen by many.

At the heart of the play is the conversation between Sausage Fingers (Byron) and Bacon Knees (Kitching) after they find themselves separately together on the bridge.

This awkward discourse is repeated on an ever-revealing loop and interspersed with both characters taking turns to shed horrific light on the troubled and violent trajectory of their lives, recounting neglect, emotional, physical and sexual abuse as easily as if was the everyday experience for us all.

As he jovially narrates truly horrifying tales from his childhood onwards, Bacon Knees displays a seemingly fantastical silver lining, written through him like rock. Kitching delivers an absolutely heartbreaking performance.

Meanwhile Byron plays Sausage Fingers’ internalised but always-simmering rage brilliantly as he recounts a life of being misunderstood and let down across the board.

Sprinkled in seventies and eighties nostalgia – someone needs to tell me where I can get some mint Toffos in 2019 – the script is dipped in the darkest of humour. Belly laughs are quickly followed by a gut-punch feeling that you shouldn’t have been laughing at all.

The simplicity of Pritchard’s sparsely-staged production – there’s no costumes or set to speak of, aside from a cluster of small screens serving up flash card-type imagery throughout – means there’s nothing to distract us from what we’re hearing and makes it all the more powerful. Never more so than during the last play-through of this chance¬† meeting above the River Tyne.

I have to be honest, the promise of ending on a hopeful note seemed pretty unreachable by this point, but the dying seconds offered enough of a glimmer to get me home – despite being in pieces.

Bacon Knees and Sausage Fingers is at Alphabetti Theatre until February 23. Tickets are Pay What You Feel, but need to be booked. You can do that here.


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