A Dinner With Gravity
La Boite Indie & Sarah Winter
La Boite’s Rehearsal Room
27th June – 7th July 2012
What a magical evening! Again! What a week for La Boite Indie, simultaneously opening two new shows! So I’ve been wondering. Yes. That. What if La Boite didn’t exist? We wouldn’t get to experience the magic that is happening every time something new is created there. How many artists and audience members are currently getting something from La Boite? What’s it worth? What would it take to keep it going from strength to strength, rather than allowing it to be gradually, insidiously stripped of its funding or support? Would you miss it? Silly question.
HOW MUCH would you miss it?
You know what? If you can’t have your name in lights just yet, keep buying those tickets!
I know! You are! You guys are the people we see there! You’re the community!
(Now tell a friend who wouldn’t normally go to the theatre. La Boite Indie is the ideal introduction to the theatre. It’s never what you expect)!
Sitting in La Boite’s rehearsal room on Friday night (we’d seen it last in its guise as The Rabbit Den), at a long table designed by (EVE’s) Backwood Originals and constructed from recycled timber window frames, I felt like I’d fallen down the rabbit hole at the top of The Faraway Tree!
Without shrinking or growing (there were no pills to pop, only buttons to pop onto plates in place of canapés), my perspective changed. I could see “theatre” as the place and the entity we’ve always talked about – a living, breathing work of malleable art that is always happening and always evolving, incorporating audience and artists all at once, sharing our original stories over a bottle of wine! As I say, we’ve always talked about it but our focus at XS has been on “putting on shows,” in that rather more traditional sense of making theatre. Even when we work with the event management gurus, we plan to put on a show. Here was somebody who created a space, set a table, placed food upon it – above it, actually – and invited an audience to become the artists, to become the show. She’s seamlessly merged theatre and event management. It’s brilliant.
“If you feed them they will be happy.”
She’s right. She’s the hostess with the mostess. And then she leaves the room.
Sarah Winter, who clearly dances to a different beat, a bit like Enid Blyton or Lewis Carroll, has created something quite unique: an intimate meeting of strangers…or of friends who haven’t yet met.
Beneath enormous black and white helium-filled balloons holding plates of hors d’oeuvres supplied by local catering company, Loaves and Fishes, with the help of elegantly printed prompts presented as our entree, mains and dessert menus, the conversation flowed as freely as the wine, between Nick, Leanne, Anna, Sam and I (at one end of the table). We found ourselves laughing, joking and sharing intimate details as if we were old friends.
Where were you born? What’s your middle name? Tell us about some misadventure. What’s your earliest memory? What does happiness taste like? What’s the meaning of life? Share a joke.
I noticed that at the opposite end of the table, the guests seemed to be powering through their menu options, taking on the physical challenges (Play the piano! Make something for someone!), leaving us far behind them and in deep conversation about the merits of Disney’s princesses and what it means to be a woman who reads and runs and talks back to people. (Say, “I’m a feminist!”)
There was no unease, no discomfort; it took barely a moment for introductions to take place and a conversation to begin. Immediately, we became both the audience and the art.
Who was watching? Does it matter? Was it enough that we were there, taking part in the experience? Yes. It’s a very special experience and I hope that Sarah may find a way to offer it again (local restaurants, do you hear me?) because it’s a dinner that everybody should attend. It’s changing lives a little bit and in that, it represents a small way to help mend the world, if only we all took the time to get to know each other – everybody in the village – a little better. If only our dinner parties would bring about WORLD PEACE (no politics or religion at the table?! Imagine!). Of course, the thought is naïve and a little too idealistic but wouldn’t it be lovely if it actually worked?
If you feed them they will be happy.
If you offer topics of conversation they will talk.
And to talk is to connect.
Upon leaving the room we took out the iPhones and found each other on Facebook (as you do). A little ironic perhaps but no one wanted to lose the connections we’d made over dinner.