Review – There Came a Gypsy Riding

Wednesday 24 January 2007

There Came a Gypsy RidingTo the Commercial Environmental Health Service
Public Protection Division
Islington Council
159 Upper Street
London N1 1RE

Dear Sir or Madam,

We understand you are responsible for investigating complaints relating to unhygienic practices in the London Borough of Islington.

We would like to draw your attention to the decidedly unsafe manner of chicken preparation flagrantly occurring on stage in Frank McGuinness’s dreadfully titled There Came A Gypsy Riding at the Almeida Theatre.

There Came a Gypsy Riding Eileen Atkins Imelda StauntonThe chance to see Dames Eileen Atkins and Imelda Staunton* drew us to visit your borough. Given the subject matter of a family grieving for a son who had taken his own life, we were prepared for a difficult evening.

But we were shocked by the irresponsible portrayal of poultry preparation by the Dame-in-waiting which – in our humble opinion – invited only further misery for this Irish family in the future.

While preparing a chicken for dinner Miss Staunton was seen to pick up a bottle of olive oil, touch various work surfaces and props and even plunge her fingers into a jar of bay leaves – all without washing her hands once. This in spite of designer Robert Jones having thoughtfully supplied a fully operational tap in the kitchen set (very impressive, we thought).

As you will know, the salmonella bacteria attacks the stomach and intestines. In more serious cases, the bacteria may enter the lymph tracts, which carry water and protein to the blood, and the blood itself. Salmonella is a nasty bug which can cause diarrhoea, constipation, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting. Indeed, we in the audience were close to exhibiting these symptoms, although this may have been the body’s natural response to the mawkish sentimentality of the melodrama portrayed on the stage.

Not that this will be of direct relevance to your investigation, but to be honest, we found this food preparation scene rather distracting as Miss Staunton was simultaneously acting “grief” at this point, but the dramatic potential of the scene was diminished for us by anxieties about kitchen cleanliness and the use of real knives.

We trust you will pay a visit to the Almeida promptly to inform director Michael Attenborough of these simple rules for reducing the risk of salmonella:

  • Always wash your hands with soap after going to the toilet and before preparing food. Dry them on a dry towel.
  • Wash your hands when you switch from preparing one type of food to another, eg vegetables to meat. This helps prevent the exchange of bacteria between different ingredients.
  • Kitchen utensils must be properly washed with soap and water before use with another type of food. Again, this stops bacteria being exchanged.
  • Use different cutting boards and knives for preparing different foods.
  • Change the dishcloth every day. Wash dishcloths in water that is at least 60oC.
  • Store food in the refrigerator. Meat, poultry and fish must not be left out of the fridge for long periods.

While you are at it, perhaps you could also ask him to cast his eyes over the golden theatrical rules below and share them with writer Frank McGuinness where appropriate:

  • People should never sing on stage unless in a musical. And they must NEVER sing the title of the play (again: unless in a musical). Never, ever sing Irish folk songs under any circumstances whatsoever.
  • Do not have actors recite poems. Write your own poetry if poetry is absolutely essential (although it is difficult to imagine such circumstances).
  • Do not have your actors stand at the edge of the stage wistfully sniffing the air to indicate the play is set by the coast.
  • NEVER use the noise of taped seagulls for the same purpose.
  • Do not use uncooked poultry as a prop.

Thank you. We trust that your intervention will not only save lives, but many hours of indigestible Irish cliches for Islington theatregoers.

Yours faithfully

The West End Whingers

PS: In case this helps your case, this is what the WEW entourage thought of the play:

There Came a Gypsy Riding audienceĀ vote

Footnotes

* It can only be a matter of time

9 Responses to “Review – There Came a Gypsy Riding”

  1. daveonthego Says:

    Not sure what the horizontal hands mean. If I was an American and I assure you that I am not it could be take a hike or give me a left I’m getting out of here. I’m presuming it is an equivicol not great and not bad. There were some good lines in this production and I can’t relly fault the acting. I could tell that they were doing the accents though. How are you, how arre yiou. Just a bit overly melodramatic and what was all that curse stuff about!

  2. daveonthego Says:

    PS: the bit about singing in non musicals. I must admit the ditties that are sung are the crack cocaine of earworms for me (this is not good). That came a gypsy riding is going through my head right now aaaargh!

  3. OneEar Says:

    I tend to think of the chicken as infecting the salmonella.

  4. the merm Says:

    Why am I suddenly an ex-friend? You can only see my paper thumb!!!!


  5. Hmmm. Yes, it does look like the sort of thing Joan Crawford would have done, doesn’t it? Don’t know how that happened. Honestly.

  6. Graham Says:

    I saw this last night and you’ll be pleased to know that the relevant authorities have taken note and Miss Staunton washed her hands THREE times whilst preparing the chicken. However, she then wiped them on the front of her apron which I would say negated the benefits.


  7. Hmmm. Well if you’re right it certainly does sound like a step in the right direction, Graham, but really one does hope for better standards in the theatre. Thanks for keeping us in the loop.

  8. Suzy Says:

    Hello there,
    I have just been looking up ‘Gypsy Came Riding’ as I could not remember who wrote it. I came across all of this very belatedly and wish I had at the time, as it would have caused much hilarity amongst my team and the cast, particularly the concerns of the chicken. I was the stage manager on the piece and we researched how to deal with the chicken and took local advice from our local butchers on how the chicken should be cut up. Miss Staunton even took the chicken home at one point as the recipe was particularly gorgeous and of which I highly recommend. I’m sorry some people were concerned about the safety of her and indeed the safety of all of us working on the piece, but I just wanted to reassure you we were all absolutely fine (and I used to check Imelda’s hands every night for possible cuts and stood by in a hidey hole to arm her with plasters and wadding!) Liking the West End Whingers, very good!


  9. Suzy – PLEASE send us the recipe if you still have it!


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