Entertainment Local

Cuisine & Confessions juggles joviality and nostalgia

By Zoe Grams

A scene from Cuisine & Confessions. (Alexandre Galliez Photo)

A scene from Cuisine & Confessions. (Alexandre Galliez Photo)

Stealing olives from the jar while my mother prepared paella. Watching my nana brown fish and milk in a cast iron pot. Cooking nervously for a first love and burning the onions.

Who doesn’t have vivid, sensory memories from the kitchen? From family dynamics to successful parties, this room is the setting for some of our most meaningful experiences.

In ‘Cuisine & Confessions’, acrobats from across the globe share their own recollections in a delectable combination of circus, theatre, and live cooking. Produced by The 7 Fingers and presented by Théâtre la Seizième, the high-flying feast for the senses warms Vancouver Playhouse from January 25 to 29.

“We thought, ‘What if we went into food memories of the performers – their childhood, their ancestors. What if we can speak about these real emotional times in their lives through food,’” said Shana Carroll, co-creator of the show and co-founding artistic director of The 7 Fingers.

“We did exactly that,” she continued. “The first thing we did before we even explored choreography was have (the cast) tell stories of their childhood and families. It was amazing how food was such an important part of so many memories.”

In a large on-stage kitchen, performers prepare food for the audience while integrating its utensils and equipment into spectacular feats: whisks are juggled, dining room tables vaulted upon. More than a dozen stories are shared through movement, theatre, and song as the theatre fills with the smell of cooking.

“We really wanted it to be sense-oriented – touching the batter and smelling rosemary cooking,” Carroll said. “A big part of it was what we call the ‘blood memories’ of the kitchen. We would go on and on about all these smells we remembered.”

While circus tricks and snacks may sound like a romp, “Cuisine & Confessions” also unwraps some dark memories.

Argentinian acrobat Matias Plaul tells of his father, a revolutionary, who was kidnapped, tortured and imprisoned by the country’s regime. The story is shared verbally then expressed through movement in a gravity-defying pole routine.

In a skit that involves juggling eggs, performer Melvin Diggs shares how omelets became important to him as the result of not having a father.

Another performer laments never being allowed dessert as a child: a small detail that represents a lonely upbringing by strict grandparents.

“A lot of the stories that came up were really tragic. So many people had these crazy pasts,” Carroll said. “The tone and colour of the show is bright and warm, but the stories that we touch on have a lot of sadness in them. I think it makes for a really interesting balance.”

The show asks its audience to experience this diversity of flavours in a very active way.

“We wanted to capture that feeling of bonding in the kitchen and those intimate moments. During the pre-show volunteers help us fold napkins or chop vegetables. While they do, they speak to the performers and find out a little more about their stories.”

Audience members will be pleased to know that they’re off the hook for dishes, though. One performer is responsible for cleaning the kitchen each evening. Another example of how, in this show, art truly imitates life.

Cuisine & Confessions performs at The Vancouver Playhouse at 8p.m. from January 25 to 29 with matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets start at $45, available at ticketstonight.ca.