Intrigue, wartime secrets, political issues, double and triple agents, tap dancing, singing, 1940’s talk radio, and biscuits – The Foundry Group packed a lot into The Ministry of Biscuits when they performed it for a near-capacity audience at Lichfield’s Garrick theatre on one of the warmest nights of the year. The four-person cast of Murray Simon, Amy Sutton, David Mounfield and Brian Mitchel played all of the roles from love sick junior biscuit designer Cedric Hobson, to the imposing, but ultimately powerless Minister of Biscuits, to a comedy biscuit designing rival.
With an original score consisting of many musical pastiches, delivered by a recorded string quartet and piano, and very impressive three or four-part harmonies by the cast, this was an entertaining evening at the theatre.
The government wants to keep people in their place, with boring biscuits. Biscuits that are dry and circular, with no imagination, but lowly design clerk Cedric Hobson has bigger, brighter ideas, when with the help of beguiling secretary Francoise Courvoissier he designs The Triple Chocolate Gingernut Cream Surprise, but the government, and double agent Miss Courvoissier put an end to his scheme to bring joy and lightness to the lunch breaks and tea times of the lowly, down-trodden office worker.
A scene where Hobson is re-educated into agreeing with the lines of the government is highly reminiscent of 1984 and threatens some of the pathos that the end of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest has, but luckily for Cedric, the world and the audience, love, and his special biscuit saves the day.
With live improv provided by a misbehaving prop helmet, this was a night of good story-telling, with a slapstick bounce and a happy enough ending.
Although there was no real depth to the piece, it was ably performed and characterised by its four-person cast, and deserved the applause it received at the end.