Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Ciaran Taylor's Two for Dinner For Two

There was a time when the smell, never mind the taste, of theatre went pretty much ignored. But recently that has begun to change. Last year’s Dublin Fringe Festival welcomed Irish celebrity chef Kevin Thornton to its program, while Barabbas lately cooked up a version of the Cyrano de Bergerac story set in a the kitchen of a celebrity chef.

And of course, the crossover of food and art isn’t just happening in theatre, or just in Ireland. This year’s blockbuster art show in Germany, Documenta, will exhibit work from superstar chef, Ferran Adria.

In the meantime, the “cooking as art” Irish axis opens up a new front next week with the premier of Two for Dinner for Two, a new show by Dublin company, BDNC Theatre.

“I have noticed since we started on this project so many examples of food turning up in shows,” says Ciaran Taylor, the show’s director. “So there is definitely something in the zeitgeist. But what we are doing is not so much about food as art, I think, than about the performance aspect of cooking.”

The show, Two for Dinner for Two, devised by Taylor and the company, features two people who, for the duration of the performance, prepare and eat a meal.

“We concentrate on the act of cooking, on what people are thinking about when they cook. It is something we all have to do, sometimes with somebody else. And we are all aware of the sorts of things that can pop into your mind while you are doing it...there are a lot of knives in a kitchen”

The production began life as a commission under the Per Cent For Art scheme for the renovation of some flats in Ballybough. Since then, the company have performed it in the kitchen of Araby House, in North Richmond Street and in the green room kitchen at Dun Laoghaire’s Pavilion Theatre. For the Project run, however, the company has built a special working kitchen set inside the theatre.

The old stage maxim about not working with animals or children can now, it seems, be supplement with a ban on carnaroli rice. If keeping cats and kids under control is a problem, making sure that all the live cooking happens just on cue has been one of the most demanding parts of the show.

As part of their performances, the actors -- Ruth Lehane and Karl Quinn -- not only have to remember their lines, but chop, mix, simmer, stir and generally rustle up something tasty. On the menu each night will be soup, risotto and chocolate cake. (Luckily for them, the singer and clarinettist who play specially-composed music by Jane O'Leary throughout the show, are not also required to prep some vegetables.)

“Timing the cooking so that everything is ready on cue has been one of the things we have had to rehearse the most…So, we’ve eaten quite a lot of risotto recently,” says Taylor. “My little son, he particularly likes the risotto. But the actors, well, I don’t think they’ll be eating risotto for a while when its over.”

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