Food, glorious food can mean so much. It is nourishing and keeps us alive. It’s something we share with loved ones. It can also be a window to certain cultures- you can be an active participant in a small and perhaps unknown community. This is the scene that Double Delicious operates in: it’s a heart-warming and unique blend of storytelling told through food.
The show had its world premiere at Carriageworks for Sydney Festival. The concept is directed by Darren Yap and builds on Contemporary Asian Australian Performance’s (CAAP) 2014 show, The Serpent’s Table. The audience are seated at large, round tables, just as you would if you were about to eat with a large group at yum cha or a Chinese banquet. The day’s special is five Asian Australian storytellers drawing on diverse backgrounds to provide rich stories and personal histories.
Korean chef, Heather Jeong begins by teaching us all about kimchi and its tasty ingredients of cabbage, garlic, chilli, and fish sauce. She delivered a heartfelt tome about the tricky relationship she had with her father. He was someone she didn’t meet until she was nine years old, the same age that she started cooking. Her Budae Jjigae or Korean Army stew boasted a fusion of East and West: kimchi along with frankfurts and baked beans. It was a fun and quirky offering – much like her own story – and it had splashings of good grace and humour.
Actress and educator, Valerie Berry described cultures clashing in different ways in her piece. She remembered herself with her four siblings in their tan coloured suits. Her Filipino mother married her White Australian stepfather and they all lived in Ceduna in South Australia. Her dish was a delightfully moreish Adobo. It was a crisp barbeque meat with a nice amount of chargrill. Chef, Christine Ware really outdid herself with this one.
Choreographer and dancer, Raghav Handa delivered a ceremonial meal, Chole, a warm, chickpea curry. This was really intimate as he described how this food helped him become one with his ancestors. The dish is often served at births, marriages and deaths, so it’s an important one. Handa also peppered his performance with some of the wonderful dance moves he is known to grace large stages with.
Writer, Benjamin Law brought some real levity to the proceedings with his wonton soup and a gong he purchased off eBay. He described his childhood in Caloundra in Queensland as a “scrawny Asian kid.” He had chopsticks in his lunchbox and had to board the bus on all fours because the steps were too big. It was quirky and also thought-provoking at times. His talk of looking Chinese while sounding Australian, and therefore feeling out of place in both Queensland and his ancestral home of Hong Kong, hit a prescient mark.
The final piece was from renowned celebrity chef, Elizabeth Chong and her Black Satin Chicken. She recalled opening her cooking school – a hobby that became a business – and the time she spent cooking alongside Bert Newton on morning TV. It was nice to see a photo of the pair together and to hear that Chong had received an Order of Australia.
All the artists used photographs in their pieces – many of these with their families. Verity Hampson’s lighting and projections helped stitch the visuals along with the other visceral facets of the proceedings. Nicholas Ng’s sound was atmospheric and there were a few surprises too with a few pop songs also used to help set the mood.
The proceedings did seem a tad rushed at times. Each story was delivered and the food was served by a small army of waiters but often you weren’t given a chance to really stop and savour all of these complex flavours. It would have been nice to get a recipe card for the dishes described. There is no doubt that the audiences’ interests were piqued, and that they’d be hungry for more of this delicious food long after the event had finished.
Double Delicious was a mouth-watering night of great food and banter. We had all come together as a community and experienced a real treat: some fun and heartfelt storytelling wrapped up in excellent food from diverse cultures. This show had been a satiating and satisfying experience- a flavourful blend of the best things about food and theatre. Yum!
REVIEW SCORE: FOUR & A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE).
Double Delicious plays as part of Sydney Festival until January 12. For more information and tickets please head HERE.