Rachel Mars in Our Carnal Hearts – photo supplied by the Company

This is almost certainly the first theatrical event that I have ever been to which features a Nespresso machine in action. It may not be the first to feature rubber chickens, however. This is one of a new wave of shows which explore many different ways to communicate with an audience and tell a tale. Keep an eye out for those chickens.

The tale is described in the programme sheet as a celebration of envy, and it does indeed give us all a little opportunity to enjoy the darker sides of our good nature.

The setting is intimate, a tight square the size of a small living room bounded on four sides by a double row of chairs. One figure in black sits central in each front row and the audience tiptoes in around them. All but the bravest of us head for the back row of seats on each side.

As the lights rise on the four seated figures we hear them singing in harmony in what becomes a musical backdrop and accompaniment to the whole performance. Rachel Mars enters for what may look like a solo performance, but the singing quartet becomes more involved in the physical aspect of the show as it progresses. The four singers provide a delightful and tuneful commentary to the narrative that Rachel pursues, which looks at our mean side, at our envious glances and sneaky actions. Oh, and our latent pyromania.

There is a question or two direct to the audience, but this is not a show that merits our timid retreat to the second row of seats – or is that just Norwich politeness? Rachel takes the art of comparison to new heights and depths, getting every one of us to reflect on how we treat those around us and the consequences of our envious actions.

In spite of the serious theme this is a frothy, funny and fast moving show with delightful music and rather good singing from the quartet: Louise Mothersole (who is also one half of the excellent Sh!t Theatre); Rhiannon Armstrong; Orla O’Flanagan and Rachel Weston. The show is written by Rachel Mars, an experienced performer and writer who clearly enjoys comparison of her work with other performers, unless they seem better! Rachel should not worry. This is a great little show which delighted the Arts Centre audience. Just watch out for those chickens.

©Julian Swainson

Find out more about Our Carnal Hearts here: http://www.rachelmars.org/projects-1

Our Carnal Hearts is supported by Arts Council England and is coming to Cambridge, Plymouth and Harlow in the New Year.