Cuisine & Confessions can only be described as an acrobatic take on cooking. Montreal-based company, Les 7 Doigts, has created a feast for the soul which not only dazzles the audience with incredible circus stunts, but finds its way to the heart through stories of food, leading the viewer into the complexities of human relationships stomach first. Nine characters take turns in the spotlight, sharing their stories from mama’s kitchen in English, French and Spanish. The ingredients for the night’s performances are written on a chalkboard and crossed off as they hit the stage. Each story walked the tightrope between lighthearted nostalgia and darker feelings of loss of love and innocence.
The performance began as the audience took their seats: performers were busy in the gigantic kitchen chopping vegetables with viewers they had brought on stage. One actor was asking couples what their first meal together was like. He later asked the audience if anyone could crack an egg with one hand and preceded to drape a couple of volunteers so they could demonstrate with one of the eggs from his red plastic egg carrying case. Another actor provided obscure facts about food into a microphone, while another asked people to try to guess the flavour of gummy bears without seeing their colour.
The audience was already sucked in to the world of the kitchen by the time the performance started: the preamble had the crowd chewing over their meals with loved ones, foods they liked and disliked, favourite childhood meals. When the first story began—the story of an omelet that a singer mother would serve to her son when his other siblings went to spend time with their biological father—the audience was silent and still. I was already on the verge of tears. The company lightened the mood by inviting an audience member onstage to eat the omelet that had been prepared in front of our eyes during the series of acrobatics that illustrated the tale.
Each character’s story was moving but two segments were particular standouts. The first was the forlorn areal silk number accompanied by narration in an Eastern European language, the barrier of which made the story all the more haunting as the focus was on the performer’s struggle on climbing, falling, and twisting through the gingham tablecloth-printed silk. The second was the story from the heretofore jovial man who had divvied out eggs during the pre-show: the meal he recalls is the last he shared with his father before he was arrested by the government for taking part in the Argentinian resistance. Daring falls and jumps on the long pole that ran from floor to proscenium underscored the risk and loss the character felt.
The final demonstration was a gleeful and downright genius romp through flour. Clad in black, several of the female contortionists danced and leapt through clouds of flour: every child’s dream. Cuisine & Confessions was an exquisite performance that called the audience to listen to their stomachs and in turn, connect with themselves and the people around them. The banana bread that had been baking for the last half hour of the play was ready (we had all been asked to turn our phone timers on, and they all chimed at the same time) and the pasta that had been cooking on the stove was ready to serve. As the house lights went up, the whole audience was invited down to the stage for dinner.
Cuisine & Confessions ran January 25 - 29, 2017, at the Vancouver Playhouse.