There is something underneath the snap, bang and clang of baking utensils that Billie and Dani repeatedly throw around, but the audience might have a hard time keeping up with it. Presented by Big Loop Theatre Company, written and performed by Alice Downing and Kitty Hughes, and directed by Duncan Hallis, Flours packs a lot of humour and fun, but there are times where it feels all too much.
Hired by a temping agency, Billie and Dani find themselves in the awkward situation of turning up to work at a bakery with no clue of how to actually bake. You would have thought someone would have checked their CVs. But no matter – they end up not doing much baking anyway. What instead follows is a whirlwind of an hour, in which the audience are whisked through almost an entire span of a woman’s life, with even a mini biology lesson about vaginas chucked in along the way, flip chart and all.
From giving birth to a loaf to using eggs as substitutes for real babies, Flours is full of very obvious metaphors and overt explanations. The audience barely has to do any work. There is a scene on modern dating with a literal gag on ‘ghosting’ in which Billie drapes a sheet over herself. Heavier issues such as sexual harassment and rape are also highlighted through the introduction of a third character played by Alice Downing. Yet the monologue feels disjointed from the rest of the piece, and the audience is barely given enough time to absorb the gut-wrenching emotions Alice Downing’s skillful acting evokes. With a plethora of themes and ideas at its hand, Flours doesn’t actually do anything new with them except simply touch base on what we are all already aware of.
However, the bits it does well, it does really well. When Billie disappears after insisting she is just ‘popping out’ for a quick smoke, Dani has a mini breakdown and a hilarious dialogue with the flip chart. Billie returns not long after and we find she has been travelling around the world. There are excellent and clever jibes made at superficial ideas of travelling and ‘finding yourself’. Turns out, being lost in Peru is just the same as being lost in Wales.
Despite the silliness, there are also many positive messages sprinkled through the show that are universal. There is the idea that no one has got ‘life’ figured out, or knows one hundred percent what they are doing. That many of us are just chucking things into the mix, hoping something edible will come out of it. There is also the constant emphasis on societal expectations on women’s bodies and their lives and how difficult it is to daily fight against these things.
But the show seems determined to not let the heavier issues overturn the light-hearted and ludicrous tone that is at the heart of Big Loop’s productions. Perhaps that is why Flours leaves the audience wanting to be more engaged and challenged. It will be interesting to see what this developing theatre company comes up with next.
Flours was showing at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, from 18-21 July, 2018.