Concept by Annette Shun Wah, Co-directed by Courtney Stewart and Valerie Berry
Review by Charlotte Smee
What could be better than dinner and a show? Not much, I would argue, but eating dinner while you’re being told stories about what you’re eating is something extra special. Produced by Contemporary Asian Australian Performance, Double Delicious brings storytellers, music, and visual projections together and presents them in a five-course meal for the brain, heart and stomach.
First up was Heather Jeong, Australia’s leading Korean cooking instructor and kimchi master, with a story about meeting her father for the first time when she was nine years old. His favourite food, a strange mix of American and Korean culture, was budae jjigae (Army Stew) – and so we ate hot dogs, spam and kimchi stew.
Next, performance maker Valerie Berry exploded onto the stage kitted out in a tan suit and brandishing a lit-up umbrella. She told of her mother moving from the Philippines to marry an Australian man in Ceduna, and how she learned to make pork adobo to feel connected to her home country. Although with some awkward sound placements, Berry’s delivery was full of energy, sincerity and humour. The pork adobo and rice was also scrumptious!
Benjamin Law’s story of feeling stuck between Hong Kong and Queensland, looking like a Hong Konger and sounding like a bogan, was well-paced and made great use of a giant “Aldi” gong behind him. He wrapped wontons as he spoke about games he and his siblings played, like “which sibling is the most Asian?” and crawling up the stairs of the school bus.
Raghav Handa, dancer and choreographer, used movement and words to explain chole, a chickpea curry you make when someone is born, someone gets married, and after someone dies. His charisma and joy were infectious and brought a broader perspective and balance to the piece. Jennifer Wong, comedian and food writer, brought snow fungus sweet soup to the banquet. She cleverly used the ritual of cooking a whole batch of soup as a metaphor for the connection and healing that food brings, especially through her experiences with depression.
Co-direction by Berry and Courtney Stewart sometimes felt restricting, with storytellers keeping to a quite rigid structure in parts. While the concept, stories, sounds, projections and the food were all fantastic, at times elements were overwhelming or seemed disconnected from the stories being told on stage. However, Verity Hampson’s projections of Handa’s dancing hands were beautiful, and it was lovely to see pictures of each storyteller’s family after they had left the stage. Nicholas Ng’s live music and sound design were enchanting, and it was a real treat to see his moments of acting during Law’s story.
Double Delicious is an exploration of identity, culture, food, multiculturalism, and legacy. What do we leave behind? Is it our responsibility to continue our cultures? How do we continue our family legacy? Most often, the strongest connections we have with our culture is through food. A well-thought out concept with some emotional and culinary gems, this piece is for those of us who like a bit of deep discussion when we eat.
Double Delicious plays at 5pm and 8pm at The Concourse, Chatswood until 18 June. Find tickets here.
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