Daily Bread

Diet culture, rules, faddism, myths, body shaming. A theatre show about our daily bread.
The Old Fire Station, Thu 12 September - Sat 14 September 2019

September 16, 2019
A satisfying, wholesome theatrical feast

The first thing you notice when you walk into The Old Fire Station’s theatre to see Daily Bread is the smell of baking sourdough. Co-writer and performer Robin Colyer was already onstage, mixing up the dough for the next loaf, while others cooked in an industrial-sized oven behind him, and several more finished examples were arranged on a table nearby. Flour filled the air – as the signs outside the theatre noted, the performance contains gluten, and probably wouldn’t be suitable for anyone with a serious allergy.

The performance began when Colyer took his latest loaf out of the oven, kicking off a show that sifted through a huge variety of topics – fatherhood, eating disorders, diet culture, health, poverty, and a scathing indictment of GOOP. While the runtime was just over an hour, it felt longer, in a very good way. Colyer, and his co-writer, director and wife Anna Glynn (appearing in the performance in the form of voice recordings), do more with a short time slot than I’ve seen in any other theatrical production. Using monologues and dialogues (with a hapless member of the audience playing a ‘health intuitive’), dance and mime, acoustic guitar and rap, and a healthy dose of science, Colyer takes us through his own struggles with dieting, deconstructs faddy eating plans, and explores the role that socioeconomic background plays in health, with humour, heart and a liveliness that kept the audience’s interest hooked. Colyer is a hugely talented performer, bringing the sparse set alive as he moved through different points of his journey from being ‘one of the worried well’ to a point of satisfying self-acceptance.

Colyer and Glynn’s script isn’t just funny and thought-provoking – it brings in an edge of meta-fiction (or perhaps meta-memoir) that added even more depth to an already packed performance. As the action unfolds, Colyer talks, and often argues, with his ‘inner voice’, a recording that creeps in to confuse him further about his relationship with food and his body. He has a long discussion with Captain Science, a Twitter account dedicated to debunking misleading science, who helps him out during a short gameshow-style section called ‘Science or Shit’, and he brings in the audience to vote, read the other side of a conversation, or, at one point, stir a bowl of bread mix.

The most groundbreaking aspect of Daily Bread, however, fits around the performance. In researching health and poverty, Colyer and Glynn learned about food scarcity in the UK, and determined to use their show to make a difference as well as to entertain. The set was made from recycled materials and reclaimed timber, keeping the environmental cost of Daily Bread to a minimum. After the show, collection buckets went round to raise money for The Trussell Trust, a charity dedicated to ending hunger and poverty in the UK. The bread that Colyer was baking as the show opened didn’t go to waste, either – the audience was invited to spend the next half-hour mingling on-stage, eating bread and jam and talking to new people. As Colyer noted, the term ‘companion’ has its origins in the act of breaking bread with others. Daily Bread aims to refocus our thoughts on food away from diets and ‘good/bad’ eating, and back to that sense of sharing and community – and it succeeds.

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