A very different kind of comedy show is heading to Leeds this September. George Egg cooks live…but without a conventional hob in sight. Combining Stand-up and quirky cookery using unexpected objects, Egg has seen great success touring his previous show internationally to critical acclaim. This new show, Movable Feast, arrives at Leeds City Varieties for one night only: Wednesday 25th September 2019 (tickets here) so I caught up with George to talk all things Movable Feast…
So, when and how exactly did the penny drop that live cooking and comedy would be the winning combination of your career?
About five years ago. I’d genuinely considered packing in stand-up and either opening a cafe, or starting a cookery school, or something in the food world. I’ve been as passionate and serious about food for as long as I’ve been a stand-up and I was feeling somewhat disillusioned by the whole comedy scene. I’d been playing around making little films of my cooking and someone suggested I do a cooking set on stage. I did and it worked, and everything sort-of snowballed from there.
Food is such a universally appealing topic – is the whole show food themed without exception?
Pretty much. Most of the stand-up is relating either to what I’m doing there and then, culinary things I’ve done in the past, or general food things. And if it’s not about food there’s a sort-of tenuous link to it (for example I’ve got a poem about washing up liquid).
Your anarchic approach has earned you great success so far what with sold out international gigs and tours – is there pressure to find new material in terms of the unusual live cooking equipment or is it the script alone changing?
Every show has not only a new script, but entirely new methods and a brand new menu, so the answer to that is YES it’s a big pressure to come up with new ideas and approaches, but it’s fun too.
Have the previous shows been received differently in various countries where cultures and attitudes to food can differ so greatly?
Not really, no. I think food and eating is such a universal thing, as is being resourceful and inventive and I think that rings true with people whether it’s about food or other aspects of life. I had an Indian man once come up to me after the show very excited and saying that the whole anarchic make-do and inventive attitude was very Indian.
With all the whacky ways of cooking you demonstrate, there must be a background in the sciences or some kind of secret army base culinary school, right?
Haha. No, I was rubbish at science when I was at school. I mean I’m sure there’s lots of ’science’ going on in the show but it just happens. I’ve had other people explain the science behind a lot of what I’m doing to me, but like when being given directions I’ve sort of switched off halfway through.
And when you cook at home, do you keep it traditional or is every meal an opportunity to experiment?
Oh I experiment all the time, both recipe-wise and method-wise. It’s how the shows are developed. Lots of playing around and seeing what works.
Do you get your audiences involved?
Only at the end and very much in an at-your-own-risk kind of way. I do the show and cook the food and then at the end the plates are carried out by the audience to the theatre foyer where they get the opportunity to try what I’ve cooked. If they want to. Or if they don’t fancy it they can just take some pictures and put them on social media.
Is there an age advisory to be aware of? Movable Feast sounds very creative and possibly family friendly but is it?
It’s pretty much a show for everyone. There’s a bit of swearing sometimes, but all said with tongue in cheek in a completely non-gratuitous way. I say it’s 14+ as it’s not a children’s show or a family show particularly, but if someone has a younger child who’s into cooking and they want to come and accept that some of the content might go over the child’s head a bit then that’s fine.
What have been the biggest highlights of working on this current show so far?
When I finish the show and head outside with the audience to sell my merchandise (recipe cards with the recipes from the show on them) and I get to have a bit of a chat with the people who’ve come to the show, that’s great. There’s so much positivity. The creativeness seems to resonate with people and I’m forever being told about methods they’ve used to do stuff and ideas they’ve had.
I love asking performers this question but considering the nature of your work, I’m very eager to know if you have a great ‘the show must go on’ tale?
Well it’s such a big deal doing the show, multi-tasking and so forth, that I have to make sure everything is thoroughly rehearsed and because I’ve practiced everything so much it does tend to run pretty smoothly. However there’s been the occasional show when I’ve suddenly realised I didn’t have an ingredient, or another where I cut myself onstage by accident and had to get my wound dressed but that added to the fun.
The best mishap was when I was doing my first show, the one about cooking in a hotel room. I make pancakes in that show and I only had one egg which before I had a chance to use it for the pancake batter I dropped onto the stage where it went all over the floor. The only option I had was to scoop it up in my hands and use it anyway. I pointed this out to the audience and said ‘look, I’ve got to use this to show you the recipe but please, after the show, DON’T eat the pancakes, just look at them’. At the end of the show the food was carried out and every last bit eaten, despite my warning. People are funny.
They most definitely are! So to close, in one sentence only, tell us why people should come and see George Egg: Movable Feast.
It’s funny, silly, educational, multi-sensory and utterly unique, AND you get to eat food at the end.
So there you have it! Remember: Movable Feast plays Leeds City Varieties for one night only: Wednesday 25th September 2019 and you can find tickets here. The tour then continues until November 30th 2019 – information here.