18
Apr
13

FOOD

521772_10151422002753406_162782658_n-1FOOD has been shortlisted in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards (Nick Enright Award – Playwriting).

Congrats Steve Rodgers! 

Winners announced in May.

 

XS Entertainment at FOODI loved FOOD – the delicious new play by Steve Rodgers. I was always intrigued by the potential for movement in the piece. Reading it, I wondered how it had ever become a “dance theatre” piece without losing the heart of the drama…or going completely OTT. In writing the education notes I was determined to offer some ideas up for dance teachers this time, as well as for drama teachers. Most actors are accustomed to being asked to move in some form or another, and many of them keep up with some sort of dance training, but dancers are not always challenged to work to the same extent within the realm of acting. Don’t get me wrong, dancers are actors too – experts in whole body expression, facial expression and gestus – but there is often a very different approach in the way a text or idea is presented to actors v dancers. I wish I could sit in on every session in schools that are lucky enough to have teachers take their kids to see this show. Teachers and students, do let me know which tasks you end up doing!

 

Force Majeure’s work is well known and I think when we’re discussing and defining (re-defining) “dance theatre” we can confidently look to their product (this time a co-pro with Belvoir) – and their process – and see that this extraordinary company are part of something quite exquisite, and exciting. They are continuously creating and refining a form that defies description and shrugs off labels; in FOOD we experience the best kind of theatre there is. Real stories, familiar places, strong voices, and ultimately, a sense that what we’ve seen has made us think or feel differently because a passionate, physical form, not too far removed from the actors’ natural instincts – movement as the extension of an emotion or the end of an unfinished phrase (“DON’T FINISH FOR ME!”) – has made the story that much clearer, and brought it that much closer to home. x

 

FOOD

Force Majeure & Belvoir

The Roundhouse

16th – 27th April 2013

 

Featuring: 

Fayssal Bazzi, Kate Box and Emma Jackson

 

Reviewed by Meredith McLean

 

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It was a full house at The Roundhouse on opening night, a busy, bustling sort of night for a Wednesday. There were even a few faces to be recognised in the crowd. But this was good; this made me feel like word had travelled quickly. I had a good feeling that FOOD, written by Steve Rodgers and co-directed by Rodgers and Kate Champion, was not going to disappoint.

 

On a stretch of Australian highway, two sisters run their family takeaway joint. Chiko Rolls and reminiscing are on the menu. While they quietly wage war with their past and dream up a brighter future, a young life-loving Turkish traveller arrives with a charm and sensuality that turns their world around.

Their dreams become reality when they transform their run down fast-food stop into a restaurant showcasing Elma’s gift for comfort cooking. Audience members become restaurant guests as the sisters serve up Elma’s hearty minestrone soup, sour dough and local wines.

 

At first I thought Nancy’s character was a lot younger. But we later learn of her younger self during some very poignant flashbacks. Regardless, that first introduction of Nancy as a character is the foreground for Elma’s story. Nancy’s past has more serious connotations but the revelations of Elma feel far more tragic. I’m a troublesome middle child myself, in between two brothers. But the dynamics of Elma as the older sister and Nancy as the younger is really what this play is about, despite what it may seem at first. The line, “This is the first time in my life that hole hasn’t been there” was the killer for me. You have to watch the show to understand what I’m referencing here but when you do you’ll find it as hard-hitting as I did.

 

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Described as dance theatre, you’d think that’s what FOOD is about in the first twenty minutes. But – and to be honest I was relieved – they keep the dancing sparse. If anything, it is more a portrayal of movement. Some of which is so honest and authentic. The choreography is perfect, and avoids being too gimmicky or kitsch…except where intended and we all remember groovy moves like those! (Composer & Sound Designer Ekrem Mulayim).

 

And those pots, those magical kitchen pots (Set & Costumes Anna Tregloan). You never know what’s going to come out of one. Sometimes it’s food, a sheet, even projectors showing small snippets of the past. My not-so secret love of lighting was satisfied thrice over when projections of the past played over Nancy and Elma’s bodies from a projector hidden in a giant pot (Lighting Designer Martin Langthorne).

 

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Last but not least, the concept that fuels this whole show… THE FOOD. Unfortunately I didn’t get a taste of it myself but the show has enough merits that dinner would’ve just been a bonus. However, I could definitely smell it and enjoy the looks on everyone’s faces confirming the minestrone soup, and Mojo Shiraz were delicious. It was the faces of the actors that made me laugh most though. There was almost a tentative “Is this going to work?” which then turned into “Thank Christ, it worked!” But isn’t that exactly how a restaurant should go? Now I’m second-guessing myself; I can’t tell if they were nervous about the interactive component of the show being a success or if they were just acting really spectacularly.

 

There were so many moments in this performance that felt so realistic it’s hard to decipher now.

 

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Whatever the case, this show is a hit! With the right balance on the scales of humour and revelation I found myself laughing at moments and gripping my chair at others. Not only was it a fantastic performance, but also it was a chance to catch up with my beautiful editor, Xanthe Coward who also attended. Awww, shucks, Meredith! It was fun to finally see a show WITH you. We are so lucky to have you. Thank you. x

 

Not a single person in our little troupe of theatregoers had a bad word about this performance. So get on the website, grab the tickets and aim for somewhere in the first few rows, where you’ve got the best chance of tasting some of that delicious soup!

 

Kate Champion & Steve Rodgers in conversation

Food rehearsal room

23 March 2012

Kate: Why did you think movement and a dance-theatre director would be the right fit for your play?

Steve: It’s a domestic story, set in a very common place – a kitchen, a takeaway shop. But at the same time it deals with these big, archetypal themes. I mean the story isn’t new: a parable without a clear moral; a play about siblings, dealing with memory; how we construct and frame it; and how we own an experience according to whether we were a witness, or participant to the event. The characters’ memories are contentious and often ambiguous, and I think, sometimes, voicing them, words aren’t enough…

Kate: So it’s the interaction between the micro and macro? Steve: Yeah, the domestic interacting with the epic. I wanted the theatrical form to be able to meet that objective – where inner thoughts can be explored through body and image, physically, sometimes transcending the words.

Kate: So it’s not just choreographed movement you’re talking about? It’s also observational physicality, or proximity – all the things that can be dealt with without words. So we’re not talking dance per say, we’re talking about every movement possibility, in the staging and stylisation.

Steve: My best nights in the theatre as an actor and in the audience have been when the shows interact with other art forms.

Kate: Like you were saying, sometimes words aren’t enough, and sometimes dance isn’t specific enough. Steve: And is that why you set out to create your own work, so you couldn’t be pigeonholed as just a dance choreographer?

Kate: From a very early age I’ve been exposed to task-based performance and movement triggered from improvisation. In Force Majeure’s work, actors, dancers and creatives bring their ideas into the room and I edit, shape and direct them with my associates. I find this more liberating and challenging than what you would call traditional choreography. If you had to give a percentage of what’s autobiographical in the play, how much would it be?

Steve: It’s hard to work out when the memory stops and fiction starts. A lot of it comes from my own experience and the people I’ve observed and loved in my life: my family, girlfriends, mates. But the characters in the play take over and it becomes something else. I’ve had battles with weight and my relationship to food has been destructive over the years; I was 118 kilos at worst. Have you always had a healthy relationship to food?

Kate: I can remember getting off a plane in Munich when I was 16 and the dance company I was working for telling me I had to lose five kilos minimum. And I remember thinking I’d love to escape to the country and have six kids and eat whatever I like – I couldn’t believe the whole of life seemed at that time to revolve around food and weight. But whenever I was thin I’d receive more praise for my dancing, so I started to equate the two – being skinny and good dancing became one. If you spend your whole day in a leotard looking at yourself in the mirror you’re going to feel fat.

Steve: I’m interested in how we view ourselves as being good enough – especially for another’s affections … emotionally and physically. I’m interested in how self-perception can be determined by the role you were cast in or actively sought out as a kid (the funny one, the smart one, the creative one, the shy one) by your family, or friendship group, or the role you’re still playing now as an adult… Is it possible to shed that role? How do you navigate all that now as adults?

Kate: And you’re not awake to the ramifications when you’re young. I mean you’re just looking forward on your own trajectory. But if you fill up a space, take on a role, it can mean your sibling or partner won’t take it up because it’s already done for them. We often take on the roles that need filling.

Steve: And if you compete for the same role – that can be interesting too – it’s like a whole lot of extroverts in a room. There’s nothing more full on than watching a whole bunch of extroverts cancelling each other out. Competing natures.

Kate: Like that flocking game when you all have to move and stop at the same time – I always request that if you’re someone who initiates all the time, please don’t. And you can see the controllers finding it difficult because they can’t determine when the group moves.

Steve: That’s like yesterday when we were doing yoga. We were doing the third salute and you weren’t talking us through it – we were supposed to just let the breath lead us and stay together. I was in dog pose and we normally do three breaths in that position but I’d done about five, but I didn’t come up because I was determined to come up with everyone else. You were on my right, so I thought the only way to get this right is to take it off Champion. And then you went and I went with you. And I was the only one, I was so proud – I went with Champion … even though I cheated.

Kate: (laughs) Are you a bit sore today? Steve: Yeah, stomach muscles. Kate: From all the sit-ups. Stevie: Yep.

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