Aridhi Anderson is a theatremaker, performer and reviewer based in Melbourne. Check out her work at aridhianderson.com.
A story about wanting to have your cake and eat it too
Who doesn't love cake? Sugar, butter, and childhood memories mixed together and chucked into an oven until... ding. It's easy to relate to a love for cake, but Caitlin Lavery's Melbourne Fringe show takes this love to a whole new level.
Caitlin Lavery in Cake: A Journey of Fluid and Frosting. Photo credit: Sarah Walker.
Cake: A Journey of Fluid and Frosting is a bizarre and innovative show about a woman who is literally in love with a cake. The cake is not a metaphor for anything - it's an actual cake that lives in her kitchen, and shares the stage with her for an hour. When the show begins, you can't help but wonder where this can possibly go - what can you do with a cake that will be entertaining for a whole hour? As it turns out, a lot.
Caitlin Lavery in Cake at the Courthouse Hotel. Photo credit: Kevin Stevens.
This show runs in the form of a series of monologues that explore the meaning of concepts like love, sex, companionship, and the alternative, loneliness. Its tone is consistently earnest, explorative - sometimes serious, often insecure, but also playful and overall endearing. The protagonist tells her story with honesty, and while she feels the need to defend herself and declare that she's not crazy, she doesn't feel the need to suppress her desires or alter her behaviour. This show is her journey of accepting her chosen way of love and letting that take her where it will.
Cake uses a minimalistic set and hardly any props. Lavery's performance relies mainly on her vocal and facial expressions, although she does pull off uncomplicated but effective physicalization throughout the show, and ends in a raw but strong physical finale. The show is greatly helped along by sound effects, audio recordings and an intriguing collection of projections. The show meanders in unexpected directions and darts in and out of a variety of did-you-know style references, including lessons in leopard slug sex, Greek mythology, every 90s rom-com movie, and quantum mechanics.
An unexpected aspect of this show is the cake's autonomy of character. It had not crossed my mind that the cake could be anything but a passive recipient of the protagonist's love, however, the cake quite literally speaks for itself - it has thoughts, perspectives, preferences, and the ability to withhold or give consent. The cake's voice and manner of speech is unconventional, and does not seem to fit any established stereotypes. This adds complexity to the experience of this show, and I am unresolved about how this makes me feel. On the one hand, it makes the character of the cake difficult to empathise with and perhaps makes it a little less believable. On the other hand, it allows the cake greater space to be its own character, it fits well with the show's inclination to not rely on tropes, and it solidifies the audience's empathy with the human protagonist.
Overall, this show is unconventional, thought-provoking, sweet (no pun intended), and an interesting way to spend an hour. Lavery delivers an engaging performance and ends the show on a high note. Her artistic conviction and ability to pull off a show on such an unusual subject matter is commendable.
Cake was produced in association with Shellscrape Theatre Company, NYC. Directed by Elaine Rava, Video and Sound Design by Kevin Stevens.