Chef (4 stars)

This article is from 2014


Humane, raw and beautiful prison kitchen-based theatre piece at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Urban performance poet and playwright Sabrina Mahfouz's fast-talking work takes no prisoners, so it's ironic that her latest play, Chef, follows the journey of a former sous chef, who is now a convicted inmate running a kitchen. In the lead role, Jade Anouka stands in chef whites, huskily spitting out words like little bullets, defiant and wise, occasionally pausing to write an item on the menu (a whiteboard).

Here, soul food has new meaning – it's the ultimate release, an escape from 'a life so black it's blue'. Violence is the ever-present spectre in her life; she traces a line from her father's blows to a gangster boyfriend whose machismo both attracts and repels her.

Terrible acts of abuse and cruelty are undercut by sly humour and recipes for, amongst other things, yellowtail sashimi and coconut curried tofu. The order and camaraderie in her kitchen is a safe haven from a chaotic life.

Chef never lets go, relentless in its searing brutality; its energy pulses like blood. Anouka is incredible, almost spent by the end and the audience breathes in as one, exhaling only at the final word. Humane, raw and beautiful.

Underbelly Cowgate, 0844 545 748, 1–17 Aug, £10.50 (£9.50).


  • 4 stars

pop A gripping story of how one woman went from a haute cuisine head chef to a convicted inmate running a prison kitchen. Sabrina Mahfouz's distinct, award-winning style and Jade Anouka's mesmerising performance make this an extraordinary new show. Leading us through her world of mouth-watering dishes and heartbreaking…