What to expect at Protein's May Contain Food
| Tue 1 Nov 2016
On Saturday 26 November we welcome Protein to perform their latest production May Contain Food. We caught up with choreographer Luca Silvestrini to find out more about the show, including what to expect, his collaboration with composer Orlando Gough and his ultimate comfort food.
Can you tell us a bit more about May Contain Food?
May Contain Food is Protein’s newest touring show. It’s a multi-sensory show that explores the centrality of food and eating in people’s lives, using dance, text and singing. It was made in collaboration with composer Orlando Gough, who created an a cappella score of ensemble singing. It involves a cast of 4 dancers and 4 singers and it’s performed in the round; the audience is invited into a space that resembles a restaurant, a dining place, with a performance space surrounded by themed round tables (beautifully and cleverly designed by Yann Seabra) where you sit, socialize, watch and experience food. The show unfolds around a testing menu that gets served and that allows the different characters, and their stories or attitudes towards food, to emerge. We’ve done a show in the round before, and with a subject as intimate and personal as food, I wanted to return to it because it’s so up close and personal.
What made you want to make a show about food?
I’ve been thinking about a food centered show for a while, although in my mind I had imagined a full dinner shared by both audience and performers sitting at a very long table. I remember proposing this to Orlando a few years ago and he became very fascinated about the idea – he’s himself a great chef and a food writer. We began to talk about it and eventually May Contain Food came out. For me creating work is usually a way to respond to and react to life events, my own ones as well as those that happen outside of me. May Contain Food is no exception; I am turning 50 this year and in the last couple of years I’ve had to, and wanted to, become a more conscious eater. We all know that food is not just a way to keep us going, but instead a more complex system of habits and patterns so intimately connected to who we are and feel. It has been fascinating to explore this subject and discover how intricate, and often disturbed, our relationship to eating can be, and how easily food becomes a substitute for something we miss, have lost or need.
How did you meet Orlando Gough?
A few years ago, Orlando and I were brought together by a producer to collaborate on a large-scale outdoor project for the Brighton Festival. We soon discovered affinities between my company Protein and his company The Shout and the work we were making; we liked each other and we happily embarked on that project. Unfortunately it never happened, due to some logistical issue. We were both very upset about it, but we kept in touch over the years and nurtured a genuine desire to ‘one day’ return to make a show together.
How did the two of you collaborate to make the show?
It has been a truly fascinating collaboration and it developed along the way, following the different stages of the making process. This was my first time working with singing at this level (the entire show is sung a cappella) and I often felt out of my comfort zone. We started from a pool of ideas that we both wanted to research with the performers; we did not set any parameters and we were not after a specific outcome, we just wanted to experiment, play, allowing the performers to bring their own views and personal stories about their relationship to food. Being the cast a mix of singers and dancers, we have allowed quite a lot time to find where and how the two art forms could meet and inspire each other. Material from the performers’ improvisations then became inspirations for the both the writing of songs and for the development of movement and vocal interactions. We were privileged to have had two rich periods of research and development, the first being pure playing and the second being more focused on making a pilot project, which was later shown to an invited audience in the beautiful Hamlyn Hall at Royal Opera House.
What can we expect from the show?
Audiences should expect a fun and thought-provoking evening about food, hosted by a multi talented cast. The show will surely trigger an array of emotions and recollections in our guests, who will have the chance to connect with the different characters and to recognize some of those feelings, thoughts and events. Food and eating are so intrinsically connected to our upbringing, family life, good moments and bad ones; there are specific flavors, smells, ingredients and recipes that will always bring us back to a person, a place, a moment in life.
Are there any related works of art, writers, or cultural theories that have particularly inspired or influenced you when making the show?
Orlando and I shared a few books and films on food at the start of the process, which served to initiate a conversation and to inspire each other imagination. Further material was also brought in by the performers. I believe Toast by Nigel Slater was the first book on the subject that I was introduced to.
What is your ultimate comfort food?
Risotto. It’s the one recipe that really distracts me and makes me feel good. It’s soft, creamy, always new… you can make risotto with anything you have or prefer. I tend to get addicted to certain food, to the point that I had to really cut it down. I did this with chips, then it was crisps and then breadsticks…there’s always one! I love crunchy raw veg like fennel, carrot, celery. I can get sick from overeating these. Going out for pizza is my ultimate treat; it’s almost a reward when I feel I have done well or when I feel I need to switch off completely.