Theatre review: Meat; Paradise in the Vault (venue 29)

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There’s something wonderfully dark about this piece of new writing from playwright Tim Foley, a faintly absurdist examination of the power hierarchies that exist in the men-only clubs that will produce our nation’s leaders.

In this case, the Catherine’s Club is a decidedly odd establishment founded on over-fussy rules about dress and an entrance ritual which involves interview, dinner and… something else. Presided over by the black-gloved sadist Charlie Moon, their latest meal features a new diner, Vicar’s son Alex, and yet more humiliation for the aspiring Callum, whose father’s occupation as director of a chain of butchers makes him virtually a peasant in this world.

It’s a play which occasionally loses focus and which seems to be making little other point than that the extremely wealthy are either strange or pitiable. The tension between whether this cabal are a bunch of posh pranksters or something more sinister is balanced nicely.

The well-performed piece also offers many vignettes which are amusing, insightful or just plain shocking: the introduction of Gordon the cross-dressing waiter, Charlie’s unpredictable relative Decker’s unpleasant “party trick”; and the most unifying thematic statement, that “it’s amazing how low men will stoop when they take the moral high ground”.

Rating: * * *

Until 19 August. Today 7:10pm.