Preview: Eating Jeff at Sprint Festival

No Table Productions are an emerging company presenting their new 60 minute show, Eating Jeff, at part of the Sprint Festival, Camden People’s Theatre.

The show – described as ‘a dark and absurdist dive into the depths of modern activism’ plays on the 22 March and tickets can be purchased here.

I asked Guillaume Doussin, who is one of the four-strong company (with Nora Lempriere, Montel Douglas and Ewa Dina) as well as the writer of Eating Jeff) to tell me a bit more.

How did you get involved with the Sprint Festival?

GD: We’d developed Eating Jeff as part of Peckham Previews Festival at Theatre Peckham. At that stage, the show was only a rough showing but it got stellar audience feedback so we knew it had to go further.

Sprint seemed like the ideal next step. We love Camden People’s Theatre’s experimental programming and thought Eating Jeff would fit right in. We simply applied and got in!

Tell me about No Table Productions. How did you start and what is your main selling point?

It’s a bit of an unusual story. NO TABLE was Theatre Peckham’s first resident company of theatre-makers. This was originally a part-time job we all applied for (as part of the government’s Kickstart Scheme) to raise Theatre Peckham’s profile by producing events, workshops, and new work. The residency ended last year, but the company lived on. We always joke that we’re the One Direction of theatre – the company was founded the day we all met!

The idea behind NO TABLE’s name is to challenge the need to “have a seat at the table” to make a name for yourself in this industry. By removing the table altogether, we strive to eliminate elitism from our practice. When programming, casting or facilitating, we always make decisions that help develop emerging artists in our extended networks by making these opportunities available and affordable to them. For instance, regularly renewing the pool of emerging creatives we work with; prioritising a good fee for artists & facilitators no matter how early-career they might be; offering to stage early-stage works-in-progress professionally, etc.

Eating Jeff sounds very relevant as more people are expressing dissatisfaction with super-earners. Where did the idea come from?

It came from exactly that! Since the beginning of the pandemic, the ten richest people on the planet doubled their fortune while the bottom 99% saw their income fall. Some of them have gone to space just for fun… while refusing to pay taxes, giving their workforce a barely survivable wage, and quashing any efforts to unionise. The billionaire world and their cult following have now become more absurd than fiction.

The #EatTheRich trend has been around online for a while now, so we thought why not make a show that takes it literally, and uses this quirky premise to dissect different approaches to modern activism in the face of this ever-so-present absurdism, and the growing feelings of powerlessness that go along with it? Would eating the rich solve anything, anyway?

The title Eating Jeff came first – we thought it had a nice ring to it. Of course, any resemblance to a real-world billionaire would be purely coincidental!

It’s still a tricky time for emerging companies. What do you think has changed since the enforced closure of theatre venues through the best part of a year?

At the beginning, we’ve seen a lot of our peers become disillusioned with the future of theatre, some of them leaving the industry altogether. But strangely enough, I think the smallest companies have been the most resilient and adaptable. What’s there to lose when you have no budget to start with?
Luckily, we’re seeing loads of opportunities come back these days. I’d say emerging companies like ours are now even more alert and eager to apply to anything that pops up, and all the more thankful when these opportunities do happen despite how volatile the regulations can get. NO TABLE was founded during the long lockdown of 2021, but we were lucky to have in-person space available to experiment and prepare for reopening. Each of our events ended up happening under different COVID guidelines – like many other theatre-makers, we’ve almost become public health experts now!

What do you really think about team bonding exercises?

You’re asking a theatre company, so saying we don’t partake in them would be a complete lie! They’re great for breaking the ice, but can sometimes get a bit too personal. Unsurprisingly, this makes for hilarious scenes between our four protagonists!

That being said, I think it’s fair to say no one likes them in the corporate world – at best they’re designed to make employees hate their job a bit less, and at worst they’re just there to increase profits in the long run by “fostering efficient collaboration”. In any case, they’re never disinterested. And in Eating Jeff, they’re a vessel to explore our characters’ relationships to one another and to the dystopian corporate world they exist in – a world not too dissimilar to our own.