One of the most shocking occurrences of late 2019 was when we let Sanjay go order fish and chips for the lot of us and he came back with fish and chips alright, but NO KETCHUP and NO VINEGAR, just loads of tartare sauce, not by mistake but DELIBERATELY, and then looked at our horrified faces and suggested WE were the madmen. Apparently this is normal in Australia. Lots of things are “normal in Australia”, I suppose (please don’t write in). This incident has nothing to do with Ben Ellul-Knight & Tom White’s I’ve had it up to hear with fish & chips, first performed live in Glasgow 2016, is a playful but subtly devastating hörspiel about care work, with a script drawing on Ellul-Knight’s personal experience and conversations with colleagues during his time as a play worker, social worker and volunteer with refugee and asylum-seeker support services.
Different speakers and singers were invited to read the script in any way they pleased, these recordings serving as White’s raw material for composition. At first, you think, christ, there’s no way I can listen to 40 minutes of that, but it soon begins to exert a vice-like grip, the dystopian grind and scrape of White’s sonic settings almost as compelling as the interwoven vocal monologues. These dispatches from the front-line of an overworked, underfunded care sector are obviously heavily politicised, and to the duo’s credit they never let you lose sight of that, but the true magic lies in the piece's embrace of incidental absurdities and non-sequiturs, with moments of surreal, alive-to-the-banal poesie that might remind you of Matthew Revert or even - mebbe it's just the Scottish accents - Ivor Cutler (I mean, if you told us that this was a demented Yummy Fur side-project that had never seen the light of day, we probably would believe that as well). Very good.