An immersive dance and music theatre show all about food? Heading along to this was pretty much guaranteed for me.
Y’see, I actually spent two years working in the world of contemporary dance – on the marketing side though, definitely not as a dancer. (Really, me, doing any dance other than ’embarrassing dad at a wedding’ or ‘chubby emo girl thinks she’s Beyonce when drunk’? HA). So as someone who enjoys both food and getting my cultural rocks off at the theatre on occasion, May Contain Food well and truly captured my interest.
Concieved and created by choreographer Luca Silvestrini and composer Orlando Gough and performed by innovative award-winning company Protein Dance, May Contain Food is an exploration of the sensory, cultural and social implications of food. Gough himself being a cookbook author, the pair wanted to bring together the disciplines of music and dance, and within the limitless boundaries of the set designed by Yann Seabra, they’ve managed to create a unique, entertaining and groundbreaking piece of theatre.
Entering the theatre space at The Place (rhyme time!), it was pretty easy to realise we were in for something a bit different to the usual ‘sit in your seats and shut up while we do something on a stage’ type deal. We were immediately greeted by waiters and waitresses and asked to take a seat at tables around the room, all adorned with different food-related displays. From McDonalds wrappers and tinned food, to piled up veggies, to the pasta collage on the table I found myself perched at, an incredible amount of work had obviously gone into the set design.
After giving us ‘taster menus’ where the cast all described their own interpretations of the night’s ‘menu’ of dance, the four singers and four dancers began their acapella soundtrack for the evening. Gough’s depth of soundtrack composition performed by sometimes breathtakingly talented vocalists brought the evening together perfectly – completely filling the space with sound. Impressive operatics alongside rhythmic speech and even animal noises, every performer gave 100% to the piece – especially considering the impressive physicality of Silvestrini’s choreography alongside it.
As well as offering a fantastic spectacle through sight and sound, audience members also had their sense of taste stimulated with small tasters of actual food being delivered to the table – including the most intricate exploration of a simple cherry tomato that has likely ever existed. Plenty of excellent comic timing and playful physicality allowed for laughs and an air of silliness, but deeper issues were also touched upon, including the moral dilemma of vegetarianism – a particular highlight from the four incredibly talented Protein dancers.
Ending with a taste of sticky ginger pudding, which we saw created by the cast themselves onstage earlier in the show, Silvestrini, Gough and Protein Dance have created a thoroughly unique piece of performance work that assaults the senses and most definitely offers up some ‘food for thought’ on the way we think about what goes into our mouths.
*I was offered a complimentary ticket for the performance – but all artistic commentary & knowledge (or lack of) is, as always, my own…
Images credit: Alicia Gough