Protein Dance: May Contain Food at King’s Place Online
Award-winning dance company Protein bring their 2016 singing and dance fusion performance May Contain Food to the screen in a decadent display of raw talent and impressive design. The show is a communal sensory experience that goes about dissecting complex relationships with food, streamed via Kings Place’s KPlayer. With its tight choreography, a capella score and a few fun antics (involving cherry tomatoes and a live chat box) the production is a stark reminder of live performance’s potential to thrive in the digital landscape. Despite suffering from a few technical difficulties, May Contain Food feels incredibly modern and impactful, delivering a quality recording of Protein’s work that will undoubtedly compel foodies and theatre fans alike.
It is set in a nameless restaurant; four dancers and four singers weave through the audience as waiters, serving guests while entertaining them with distinct depictions of diets and attitudes towards eating. Choreographed by Protein’s founder and artistic director, Luca Silvestrini, and composed by Orlando Gough, May Contain Food includes operatic solos about meat, heated debates about veganism (accompanied by a choral lament of cows), and plenty of audience interaction as dancers crawl across a crumb-covered floor. The talented cast expertly combines Silvestrini’s controlled yet emotive movements with Gough’s vocally demanding and unique score; combined with Yann Seabra’s memorable show design, the effect is quite literally a feast for the senses.
Despite some inconsistent sound quality, the performance’s adaption to the online space is generally successful and feels like a breath of fresh air. As in the original live incarnation, Silvestrini and Gough have encouraged a participatory element that makes the online viewing feel even more involving and personal: audience members are given the show’s original recipes in advance, letting them cook their experience, rather than simply being served the dishes as in the original 2016 production. The food is simple, vegan (excluding the dessert), and contrasting in texture, the “courses” including cherry tomatoes, onigiri (Japanese rice balls), kale crisps and a sticky ginger pudding. The performance also has a chat box throughout its 90-minute runtime, letting viewers interact with one another and speak to the show’s creators, imitating the social aspect of live performance that many have been craving. The activity and human interaction in May Contain Food dismantles the isolation seen in most online performances today and creates a new digitally-led viewing participatory space.
During a time when lockdown baking is trending, multiple diets are going viral, and eating habits can be seen as a political choice, the world’s relationship with food has never been more complicated or prevalent. Although May Contain Food is a five year-old production, its abstract dance sequences and harmonised chanting are incredibly relevant and relatable for today’s audience.
Photo: Chris Nash
Protein Dance: May Contain Food is available to stream from 12th February until 21st February 2021. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a trailer for the production here: