Below is a great blog review by Liv Walker from our gigs in Bradford last week. We had an amazing time full of learning , fun and reflection. Thank you Iain Bloomfield, Theatre in The Mill, all the participants and all the press who were excited and responsive to the work.
Theatre? Dinner? Who knows? Food for thought with Only Wolves and Lions
How long does it take to form a connection with a group of total strangers?
If my experience at a live art event in Bradford last night is anything to go by, about three hours – and a table’s worth of food.
“Only Wolves and Lions” is a simple concept. We were each asked to bring an ingredient – enough for 16 people. Seated down a long table with the raw goods down the centre, various recipes are suggested, negotiated, discarded or decided, and the participants then have a limited time to make a communal dinner. Staples, condiments, herbs, spices and utensils are provided by the ….should I call them performers? They felt more like hosts. Actually, Leo, Unai, Anna et al, (the company’s name is Unfinished Business) feel more like lovely friends who had us over for dinner.
Food brought out our cultural influences; from an Urdu dish of peppers stuffed with lentils to the morcilla fried to perfection by Spanish Unai.
What followed was a hugely enjoyable and somewhat chaotic period of speed cooking, with at least 12 different dishes being composed all around the room. Lacking an ingredient? Plenty of people can suggest an alternative. Need some help chopping? Willing hands are only to happy to take it on. Meanwhile as it’s all “our” dinner, no one feels any shyness at going and sticking their noses into others pots, or asking them what they’re up to. There was a reckless desire to experiment – strawberries deep-fried in chilli batter with cream, mint and black pepper anyone?
What fascinated me was that the group of strangers, disparate in age and cultural background, sat down to eat what we’d created as friends.
That individuals had conversations and got to know each other during the process wasn’t surprising, but the sense of being completely at home in this group of people over dinner was overwhelming.
The hosts had thrown in meditations about food, community, the speed of modern life, the financial crisis, independence and interdependence during the planning. The cooking time seemed to have simmered and developed thoughts in our minds, and they bubbled out whilst we shared the delicious and diverse dishes, supposed strangers sharing intimate details of their lives. Everyone had something to say in the discussion, people joked and joshed each other in a manner much more akin to family. Most evocative of all was Unai’s tale of huge family meals during his childhood in the Basque country, a story told so vividly you could feel yourself seated there, joining in the singing. And when the whole table got up to join in a simple dance and song at the end, it was difficult to believe that the group’s over-riding cultural tradition was British, one that usually needs a vat of booze to even attempt to keep rythmn in public.
It’s rare for an evening so fun and relaxing to give real cause for thought. I would also not hesitate to approach any of my fellow diners as friends if I ran into them in future. How often can you say that about people you go the theatre with?
The sheer goodwill and co-operation demonstrated by everyone involved was summed up succinctly by one of my fellow diners; “Wherever the crisis is – it’s not in the people.”
Once again, Theatre in the Mill has shown its at the forefront of championing live art, participatory theatre, or frankly, just a really great night out in West Yorkshire.