This week we are talking about Food in Theatre. (Or perhaps it is Food as Theatre, you be the judge.) The Hamilton Fringe Festival features two shows related to food and another that teases with a culinary expectation. (The three shows run Friday 20th to Sunday 29th July. See the Fringe website for all showtimes.)
The one I am heading to first is “The Cooking Show” (at the Hamilton Theatre) directed by Hamilton’s own Ray Rivers. “It’s a spoof of sorts on the Food Network,” says Rivers who is Playwright, Producer, and Director for the show, as well as appearing in it as the Maitre d’ and Musician. It’s a real multi-tasking family affair as his wife, Jean, is Stage Manager, and deals with props and costumes as well.
The show promises “humour, romance and intrigue (in a) comedy with a surprising ending.” It includes “extra-curricular activities,” real recipes, and thoughts about lamb and wine. It also features a trip to the first restaurant in France that Julia Child ate at, one that inspired her culinary career. (It was 1948 at “la Couronne” in Rouen, and she loved the sole meunière.)
Ray – who dabbled for a couple of years as a vegan, but is now a devoted meatie – is also politically active
in in the Hamilton Centre riding, though I’m not suggesting a connection! He loves to cook himself, as does his wife, though he’s quick to say he and his wife are not the characters in the play. The show features conflicts that arise between a wife who wants to eat healthy food and her hubbie who revels in the fatty and salty dishes he prepares during his TV show.
Personally, and based on the publicity materials (see photos) I’m stoked that I get to hear the song, “Zou Bisou” sung live by mini-skirted Rachel Grasby in the role of Jessica. It is perhaps best known nowadays from the sexually charged rendition by Jessica Par during the first episode of “Mad Men” - Season 5. I’ve been humming it all evening!
The second show – mentioned to me by Ray - is called Dairy Free Love, at the Citadel Studio Theatre. If The Kitchen Show is about cooking, something many consider an art, this one-woman play, written and performed by the gorgeous Victoria Murdoch, is perhaps more-aptly described as being about the science of baking.
As the fictional hostess of a nightly Internet cooking show “Dawn’s Delights”, she shares “laugh-out-loud stories and touching personal discoveries.” In our interview, Murdoch – who has an undergraduate degree from York in Theatre - told me she came by her love for cooking and for food at an early age.
“It came from being a bit of a latch-key kid.” She cooked the family dinners for her two siblings. Bored with following instructions, Victoria began to improvise her own recipes. The house rule against purchased cookies meant she also learned to bake nominally-healthier desserts and sweets.
During the show Murdoch – who admits to perhaps channeling Julia Child’s look and era - makes three gluten/dairy-free dessert recipes, including the Coconut Brownie Bites shown in the photos accompanying this column. After her 4 pm show on Saturday 21st July, Murdoch is running a free workshop at Artword Artbar at 6 pm. It’s a “behind the scenes peek” at how to create two of the dairy and gluten-free desserts made onstage during the play.
Based on her personal journey dealing with dietary restrictions, the workshop includes a Q&A session with the audience on how to eat gluten/dairy-free. Apart from her recent avocation as a dramaturge, she writes a blog on the topic: seewww.glutendairyfreedom.net.
Finally, in the line-up materials for the Fringe, Two Weird Ladies Bomb the Fringe teased with their picture of the two stars wielding kitchen utensils. Comedienne Laura Salvas wrote me in response to my emailed question about the food content of the performance (also at the Hamilton Theatre): “Our show is basically a sketch review and unfortunately does not specifically relate to food, though we do have one sketch inspired by my local organic farmer's market. I love this market dearly and think the food is all top notch and delicious, but one day when I was browsing I noticed some of the farmers selling their produce were wearing bonnets, old-timey suspenders, quaint aprons, and so on.”
“I started to wonder if these farmers actually dressed this way at home or if these were costumes designed to make their food look more wholesome and fresh. What transpired was (us) writing a ridiculous sketch about two egg farmers competing to out-organic each other. The sketch …is actually a little piece of social commentary”.
Weird? Sure, but the ladies sound great as do both the other shows. They’re so reasonably-priced, you really can’t lose. Make a point of getting out and seeing what cranks YOUR whisk.
To see more pictures, click here