Theatre preview: The Table of Delights
08 October 2015
"We want people to leave feeling euphoric about food, and hungry for a new and exciting way to interact with food in day-to-day life"
Dodging airborne edibles and dancing veg, MARK TAYLOR sits up nicely at The Table of Delights, a giant picnic of food tales from field to plate
Dancing beetroots, crooning honey bees, flying eggs and aromatic spice trails, The Table of Delights is a unique collaboration between a celebrated local food writer, a top chef and one of the UK’s most critically acclaimed theatre companies. For three days in October, the stage of The Egg theatre in Bath will be set for an innovative food education-inspired performance that really lives up to its billing as a feast of the senses.
A delicious combination of music, food and theatre, the show is aimed at children, but grown-ups will find it equally as enjoyable and informative. A huge success when it appeared at the Bristol Old Vic last year, the participatory show allows some of the audience to sit around the giant dinner table on stage so they can be part of the action and taste the food being cooked live by chef Matt Williamson and his wife, Claire Thomson, author of the family cookbook Five O’Clock Apron.
Matt and Claire will cook five tasting dishes (all locally sourced and organic, of course) during the show as the performers serve them up to the audience on stage. After its appearance at the egg, The Table of Delights will be heading to London in November and Theatre Damfino’s co-artistic director, Katy Carmichael, says they’ve ‘finessed’ the script and music and ‘streamlined’ the material for touring the production, but they didn’t want to mess with the simplicity or the food tasters, as it worked so well in Bristol.
Although the production loses Tristan Sturrock for the autumn run due to filming commitments (he’s one of the stars of the hit BBC series Poldark), they have the internationally renowned mime artist Les Bubb starring as the Maître d’.
Katy says: “Les will bring his own box of physical tricks and magic to The Table of Delights. He is a genius visual comedian, so I’m looking forward to seeing his egg mimes, or whether we can make the spaceman-beekeeper actually float. His rubber glove act (stretched over his face) is legendary, so I’ve had to find a way of working that one in!”
The Table of Delights is all about educating children about food and where it comes from, but in a fun and entertaining way rather than in a patronising fashion, and the team behind it hopes it strikes a chord with food education bodies enough for them to help spread the message.
Claire says: “The main aims of the show are to be the best food theatre show in the world, but we would be more than delighted for food education bodies to support us in spreading the message at the same time. We are chefs, theatre makers, singers, musicians, illustrators and animators, and we have a really unique approach to food education. Our team slogan has become ‘good food is vital for our children’s health... and theatre food for their imagination’.”
Katy says the sell-out Bristol Old Vic shows were a huge learning curve for the production, and there were plenty of unexpected moments. “There’s a spotlight that randomly shines on a child as they are serenaded by our waiters, and at one performance the poor girl selected just didn’t stop crying. She was mortified!”
At another show, two children disappeared under the table during the honey ice cream scene in a cloud of smoke. “It must feel very exciting under there. Some of my fondest memories are playing under the table as a child, especially when everyone else is eating.
“For us as theatre makers, we have adored working with, and being inspired by, our culinary comrades, Matt and Clare. It truly invigorates the creative process working with people from different disciplines and areas of expertise. They are friends and fellow parents, so our approach is heartfelt and fun. We try to see and taste everything through the eyes and mouths of our children – between us, we have six of them.”
Claire says the audience reactions to the show have been ‘incredible’, and many of the visiting schools clearly enjoyed it. “The visit from the children of Horfield Primary School was one memory we particularly treasure. They made homemade ‘thank you’ cards for the team afterwards. Many of these kids had never even been to the theatre before, but they were blown away and called The Table of Delights ‘the best school trip ever’. Hopefully that sums the experience up. We want people, young and old, to come away with great big smiles on their faces. What we didn’t want was some didactic show about Tommy the Tomato and eating your seven-a-day.
“We wanted to get kids excited about the bare bones, the nuts and bolts of fantastic produce from field to fork. It’s a simple message, but one of upmost importance. We want people to leave feeling euphoric about food, and hungry for a new and exciting way to interact with food in day-to-day life.”