Brought to life by Contemporary Asian Australian Performance, Double Delicious is serving Geelong a theatre experience for all the senses as five stellar storyteller-cooks share the secrets behind the dishes that have proved significant in their lives.
Directed by Darren Yap, co-director of the critically acclaimed 2014 Sydney Festival hit The Serpent’s Table, Double Delicious relishes the opportunity to further explore and expand the possibilities of this enduring food and theatre concept. With an audience seated at large, round tables, the Arts Centre special will see Chinese Australian cooking legend Elizabeth Chong, writer, and media personality Benjamin Law, preeminent Korean cooking instructor Heather Jeong, performing artist Valerie Berry, and choreographer and dancer Raghav Handa drawing on their diverse backgrounds to provide rich stories and personal histories.
“The production company behind the show [CAAP] put on a show several years ago that I didn’t get to see, but it was a hit, and it was called The Serpent’s Table, and it was exactly the same concept, but it was much smaller in scale and it was completely sold out. People heard these stories, they ate the food, and everyone raved about it,” explains Double Delicious storyteller Benjamin Law.
“Even now, I still hear stories of The Serpent’s Table and how much people loved it. And so Annette Shun Wah, who is the producer of the show, and Darren Yap, who’s the director, wanted to do that again, and on a bigger scale with a hundred people per show, and that’s when they approached me,” he smiles.
While the audience will be treated to the stories and dishes from professional chefs Elizabeth Chong and Heather Jeong, Law, a child of restaurateurs, brings his perspective on the intersection of food and family. From his debut novel and television series The Family Law, to his documentary series Waltzing the Dragon, his work orbits around this constant. Ironically, Double Delicious seems a natural progression.
“I’ve got that background in both writing stories about our community, but also as a public speaker (as one of the hats I wear as a broadcaster) so I’m often used to telling stories on stage,” he says. “They [creators] wanted an eclectic mix, they don’t just want one professional background person on stage, they don’t even want just one generation on stage and or one Asian community represented on stage. For all of us on stage, food has been quite central in our lives, in ways that maybe other Australians have experienced.
“For me, I think my part of it has almost been described as the TEDx talk section of the performance because I’m talking about growing up in a really white part of Queensland, and not really being sure whether I was Chinese or Australian or both,” Law reveals.
“My story is really about looking at both Australian politics and also the politics of a place like Hong Kong, which is where my family is, and where I’ve spent a lot of time, and that’s where I had to create the perfect metaphor for those discussions. So I cook the classic kind of wonton soup, but I’m making that for the audience for very particular reasons that will become apparent in my story.”
Bitter and sweet, Law’s story will culminate in an authentic recreation of his wonton dish, giving audience members the very unique opportunity to literally taste the story straight from the stage.
“As avant-garde as what this all might sound like, there’s nothing that connects us more than food,” Law says. “The only thing that I’ve found that connects us more than food is storytelling, and we’re storytelling through up on a stage, acting, talking, dancing. When you combine those three things together, it’s a really potent emotional experience that I think every Australian will relate to, regardless of their background.
“I can guarantee you a really beautiful soulful night out where you’ll be fed by both art and literally fed.”
Double Delicious will takeover the Playhouse stage for multiple performances from Wednesday, February 19 to Saturday, February 22. Tickets can be purchased via geelongartscentre.org.au/
Photo by Clare Hawley