Review: What If They Ate The Baby?

Dystopian Stepford Wives locked in skilled physical theatre horror

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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What If They Ate The Baby? | Image courtesy of the artists
Published 14 Aug 2023

All is not well behind the net curtains of this 50s Americana-dream house. The spaghetti casserole looks a bit green and the domestic goddesses seem rather more interested in consuming each other, romantically and literally. Dotty hasn’t even the manners to bring a pie round to Shirley’s before titillating her with a little cannibal role play. Whatever happened to hospitality…

What if They Ate the Baby? purposefully leaves gaps for the audience to insert their own narrative interpretation of what on earth is going on. Trapped in an endless simulated loop of pie dishes and prejudice, the two women battle, flirt and navigate around each other as if to some unspoken code of behaviour neither dare transgress.

Creators and performers Xhloe Rice and Natasha Roland won a 2022 Fringe First for their top-notch clowning in And Then The Rodeo Burned Down. This again showcases their exemplary physicality, their haunted doll-like jerkiness punctuated with dance and moments of intimacy. There is a constant, strong interplay between natural movement and artificiality, emphasised by Rice’s use of a transparent mannequin mask. Atop the already exaggerated makeup, frozen and emotionless, it serves to flatten their face further into a terrifying forced rictus.

An other-worldly darkness pervades here. There is a constant underscore of threat; noises in the attic, neighbours being disappeared, discussions of bodies that may or not be lurking under the floorboards. The lack of specificity does not detract from the inherent creepiness, yet there is the sense of waiting for a hatchet through the door that never quite comes.