Gastronomic at Shoreditch Town Hall
People cry on aeroplanes. Whether it’s psychological, physiological or we are simply primed before boarding a plane, it’s hard to deny that stressful security lines, overcrowded departure gates and sparse food options have something to do with our ready tear ducts. Yet Curious Directive’s Gastronomic, a new showcase at Shoreditch Town Hall, transports its audience-cum-diners into the same emotional state with its seven-course tasting menu and the gripping production woven between the dishes.
Tapping into the personal histories of their diners, Gastronomic’s performers (Craig Hamilton, Georgina Strawson and Ani Nelson) flip back and forth between chef and actors as they energetically move through to dessert. In fact, they wear several hats as the tri-timelined performance about travel and refuge slickly unfolds. At first the scenes seem disparate, but the audience is made to work for its meal as the choreography slowly reveals their interconnectedness. Surprisingly, the story holds dramatic tension, despite its viewers noshing a dinghy of bread, “The Seven Seas”, provided like popcorn as the first course.
The emotional trip is accompanied by an affecting stream of music, comic security officials berating passengers and memory-inducing flavours. There are many quirks to lure the audience in – a highlight is the magical pani puri dish “Brick Lane”, eaten by hand in one determined bite as the actors recall the first Indian Prime Minister saying, “Eating with a knife and fork is like making love through an interpreter”. The butter is served on a skimming stone, inviting diners to reminisce about their memories on the coast. There are balloons connected to the Yorkshire basket, “Sunday Daydream”, which are set off like graceful lanterns, creating a tender shared moment. The underpinning desire for personal and human connection is palpable.
Curious Directive’s Jack Lowe does not merely conceive a gimmick by taking on the stereotype of dishevelled plane food and replacing it with dainty Hestonian-looking amuse bouches served on security trays. Gastronomic convincingly traverses themes both political and personal. Most pointedly, the production skewers the notion of Britishness. It turns the head on dishes whose titles co-opt them as quintessentially British while omitting ingredients’ origins. It is also cunningly multi-layered, as the diners assume privileged spectator seats listening in on a story of survival and brave humanity.
Photos: Ali Wright/Adam Davis
Gastronomic is at Shoreditch Town Hall from 23rd September until 12th October 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.