Last night's world premier of Professor Brian Thrupiece's recently rediscovered theatrical masterpiece Culinary Bio-Ethical Salome has left critics wondering, says Daye Numant veteran theatre critic of the Bradford Peverill Times. Presented by Dorset National Theatre ["The Theatre for all Dorset"] in what has been described as a "minimalist" style, the play - long thought lost in a fire in 1985 at the premises of publisher and rights owner French-Threadbone-Weinberger - has never been seen before. It reached the early rehearsal stage in 1982 in a production directed by Sir Cameron Raincoat though the project was abandoned after fifteen weeks due to the outbreak of the Ethiopian–Somali Border Wars of that year*.
Discovered in the bottom left-hand draw in the gunroom of his Chilfrome cottage by lifelong friend and fellow member of the RSCBE Ms Audrey Badminton-Court, the original (unedited) manuscript was far from complete. Careful restoration has been by undertaken by long-time Thrupiece scholar and expert Peter "Brian" Thrupiece-Expert who has assembled the missing parts using words from other Thrupiece sources. "Not a single word used in my reconstruction has not been used by Professor Thrupiece somewhere or other in his vast output. It was largely a question of taking verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions and the rest - all known to have been used by the Professor - and arranging them in patterns according to the general rules of grammar as understood by him as a professional English speaker and writer. I found his use of the word "and" so significant and once I had fully understood that, it was the key to more or less everything else". Is it possibly this lack of a single authorial voice - perhaps even a lack of authenticity - which explains last night's somewhat bemused reception then? Mr Thrupiece-Expert thinks not. "I don't think so", he explained.
So just what did set the thespian cat amongst the theatrical pigeons at last night's Beaminster premiere? One possibility, Daye Numant opines is the "typically Thrupiecian thrust of the narrative arc, in particular the ending". *** SPOILER ALERT *** *** SPOILER ALERT *** "In this version of the drama which follows the biblical story more or less faithfully up until the aftermath of Salome's dance, Salome asks four times for the Baptist's head and is four times refused by Herod though on each occasion offered tempting alternatives ("even unto half my Lyme Regis Ice-cream concession" in the fourth case). It's pretty awesome stuff. But in line with the Professor's general culinary bio-ethical beliefs, when she asks and is refused for a fifth time, she gives up and accepts the proffered alternative of a year's supply of pineapple chunks. It may be this which has de-centred the audience by questioning it's sense of both history and dramatic verisimilitude... That said, the emergence from the cistern of a naked Nubian warrior carrying a silver salver charged with a large tin of del Monte's finest is an undeniably powerful moment."
Some leaving the theatre last night were in a state of mild shock, unequally disturbed by the gratuitous nudity in Part I and the "over-insistent underscoring of culinary bio-ethical themes in the second - in particular the highly ritualised Dance of the Mandarine Segments."
The play, which continues at the Froutosalátadrome Theatre Beaminster, is not suitable for all: in particular children, old people with urinary-tract infections or men "of a certain age".
* The producers cited general uncertainty, the fear of air-raids and a shortage of split peas amongst the reasons for cancellation, although insiders believe Sir Cameron's enthusiasm cooled once Charles Hawtrey (69) and Hattie Jacques (who had died two year's previously) left the cast.
DNT's production of the late Professor Thrupiece's Culinary Bio-Ethical Salome is playing to bemused audiences at Beaminster's Froutosalátadrome Theatre. Seats are very definitely available.