Attack of the Food Bullies

School audiences throw in (junk) food for thought

Canberra Times 4.7.2000


Attack of the Food Bullies

By Full Tilt Performance Troupe

Written by Robin Davidson, Mark Johnson and Danny Diesendorf;

In primary schools throughout Canberra.

There is nothing quite like the word “poo” to get children interested in something – and I don’t mean “pooh” as in Winnie.

But this hallowed word of childhood is not abused in Attack of the Food Bullies to gain laughs; it is used in a disarmingly clever manner.

Author Robin Davidson announced before the presentation that the show had been slightly adjusted to cater for adult audiences, but it would appear that the basic premise of the play is as clever as Ben Elton’s enviro-crusade play, Gasping.

This production, partially funded by Healthpact, is an attack against junk food. Yet it is also an attack on the socio-economic foundations which make junk food a viable product to be peddled in schools. While I’m sure the littlies didn’t fully grasp how evil the magnate who turns dog crap into food is in a socio-economic sense, they certainly got the message that junk food is about as nutritious as dog poo.

This production really engaged its audience. The usual ploy of dragging children’s interest into the show by asking questions barely had to be used – they were constantly volunteering information, sound advice and the occasional witticism.

The actors, Danny Diesendorf and Mark Johnson were a fantastic duo. Diesendorf played a particularly revolting example of a capitalist out to make money (just add sugar to dog poo and call it “CoolFood”), but managed to be strangely charming as Zak’s mother.

Mark Johnson was a convincing innocent youngster as Zak. His reaction to TV ads (which were tantamount to blackmail) were very realistic, and quite effective in mirroring the arguments that occur every day between parents and children: “But muuuuuuuuuum, if I don’t get to eat that I won’t be coooooooool.”

Diesendorf and Johnson were wonderful at improvising around the children’s reactions. Although Mark Johnson cracked up at one particularly vocal child commentary, they riposted whenever necessary, but still managed to keep the play moving along.

If this production is ever revived for adult audiences outside of schools (and I hope it is!), don’t plan on eating any McFood afterwards. It’ll make you crave a salad like you never have before.

I think they should tour it around workplaces – after all, it’s the stressed-out too-busy-to-make-lunch adults who set the bad example.

Attack of the Food Bullies is a show for schools that I directed with Full Tilt Performance troupe in 2000 devising the show with performers Mark Johnson and Danny Diesnedorf. Attack of the Food Bullies used mask, slapstick, juggling, improvisation, video and music to tell a story about the advertising of unhealthy foods to children. The show was awarded a certificate of excellence in health promotions by Healthpact ACT.

Photos by ‘pling