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Sex, drugs and Chiko Rolls

WHY is it that girls feel so much pressure to become sexualised at such a young age?

"There were two girls who worked at a fish and chip shop up the road and whenever you went in you got these looks that made you feel scared, their mum was always out the back… and there was never a father around," says writer and co-director of the theatre production 'Food', Steve Rodgers.

Rodgers says a chance meeting reminiscing with old school friends in Tasmania, discussing their desperation to grow up quickly in their teenage years, combined with his memory of the girls from the fish and chip shop, was the catalyst for the writing of his third play, 'Food'.

Rodgers, who has two daughters and two sisters, says this conversation got him thinking about why, particularly for females, the pressure to become sexualised so young was so strong.

Expressing these thoughts and the results of some self-reflection about Rodgers's own relationship with food, the play delves into the connection between food, sex and emotions, looking at the different vices people use as they go into adulthood in order to make themselves feel complete.

The two main characters are sisters running a takeaway shop at the front of their house on an Australian highway, serving up Chiko rolls.

"One sister chose food and one chose sex as a kind of medicine to address what was missing in their lives," says Rodgers.

Throw in a young Turkish traveller, some sharp knives, choreography and the pressure of transforming the takeaway into a restaurant and the potential for drama is evident.

To make it more engaging, as the sisters start to prepare meals for the restaurant, the audience members become the diners.

Food combines the talents of Rodgers, who has been working off and on with Belvoir Street Theatre Company since 1996, with the choreography of Kate Champion and her company Force Majeure, and a live cooking demonstration.

"We like to call it total theatre," Rodgers explains.

In order to cook a large pot of minestrone soup and loaf of sourdough on stage while acting, dancing and serving "customers", however, they have had to use a bit of creative licence.

"Here's one we prepared earlier," laughs Rodgers.

Certainly the audience won't be complaining as they eat their soup.

Rodgers never intended the play would be a piece of theatrical naturalism.

In another interview, Champion explains there are moments in which it becomes quite magical.

"It's very much about connection; to the audience and to each other, and in a play where two sisters are fighting for connection, Kate's a brilliant fit to direct it," says Rodgers.

Rodgers and Champion first worked together on Tim Winton's Cloudstreet with Belvoir Street Theatre in 1997.

"I am one of the worst movers in the world onstage and she (Champion) had the challenge of getting me to do some shadow movement on stage," says Rodgers.

Having survived the majority of his life as a working actor, Rodgers agrees that it's a privilege to be working in the theatre and says there is no other place he'd rather be than in a room with the actors and composer and Kate as a director.

"It's not going to make you rich but it's a rich life.

"When you do that sort of work there's a kind of communion to it, a coming together of all these different intelligences and feeling," he adds.

"Particularly this play, it's like coming together at the table."

Food is an exploration of memory and like Rodgers's previous plays, reflects on family dynamics.

Rodgers's first play, Ray's Tempest, is about taking responsibility as a father and his second, Savage River, set on the west coast of Tasmania, is also about family.

Rodgers is acting in a Griffin Theatre Company production called Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography, writing for television and writing a film script for editor, documentary maker and director Clayton Jacobsen.

Food, a collaboration between Belvoir Street Theatre Company and Force Majeure Dance Company is touring Australia, presented by NORPA at Lismore City Hall on July 11 and 12.

Tickets cost $47 for adults, $42 seniors, $40 concession and $40 group. Book by phoning 1300 066 772 or at

The bar, live music and Olive & Luca pop-up diner is open from 6pm.

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