The multi-sensory spectacular The Kitchen, stages its UK premiere at Belfast’s Grand Opera House tomorrow (Wednesday, October 21) as part of this year’s Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival.
The Indian production, devised and directed by Roysten Abel, is supported by British Council Northern Ireland and promises to be a feast for the senses. Revolving around the ritual of cooking by a husband and wife, the production is accompanied by haunting music created by 12 traditional Mizhavu drummers from Kerala, India.
“The production is a metaphor for life itself,” says Roysten. “There is no real story or words; instead the poetry lies in the mesmeric drumming score and in the preparation of a giant copper pot of payasam, an Indian rice-based dessert.”
The director is well-known for his thrilling, grand-scale stage productions, and The Kitchen is no exception.
He said: “The Kitchen aims to tap into the audience's four senses - sight, sound, smell and taste - all at once. Cooking will be carried out on three levels - through the surging sounds from the drums, the process visually on stage and the spreading fragrance of the food, all cumulating in sharing the payasam with the audience afterwards.”
The experimental play was inspired by a trip to the Turkish shine of the Sumi poet, Rumi, back in 2012, when Roysten was taken to Rumi's kitchen and was struck by the scene that used to be enacted there.
He said: “Like this production, his kitchen worked on levels. Rumi would sit on a raised platform where he would pray and meditate, while the novices, who would be seated on a lower level, would not be able to eat or drink water until their souls had "cooked". Next to these two platforms would be two pots in which food was being cooked. It was the ultimate kitchen and a metaphor for life.”
The production has toured the world extensively since 2013 reaching audiences in the Netherlands, Penang, Hong Kong, Krakow, Sydney and Auckland, but this is the first time that the 48-year-old director has visited Belfast. His previous play, The Manganiyar Seduction, was part of the Dublin Theatre Festival and was similar in its grandeur and scale.
He said: “Travelling extensively for me is a part of life, it’s wonderful to be able to share experiences and culture and there is an exceptional amount of contemporary work coming out of India, especially in theatre and literature. It’s important for us to share our experiences, Northern Ireland with India and India with Northern Ireland, we’re all so varied, yet so similar and as human-beings we all co-exist.”
Also speaking about the production was David Alderdice, Director, British Council Northern Ireland.
He said: “The Kitchen is a great example of the festival bringing the very best international work to Northern Ireland. The festival's strong international focus gives a clear and strong signal of Belfast's international ambitions and steadily growing confidence as a world city.”
As part of this year’s Belfast International Arts Festival, British Council Northern Ireland is also proud to support Artist in Residence, Amanda Coogan.
The Dublin-born artist is one of the most exciting contemporary visual artists practicing in the arena of performance art today and for the festival, she will present her new multi-media work You Turn Me On, I'm A Radio, a combination of sign language, performance, digital sound and live Instagram streaming. Working in collaboration with Deaf communities in Northern Ireland and South Africa, different Shakespearean plays will be woven together into a performance that empowers both participants and audiences to take a fresh new look at Shakespeare’s works.
The piece is part of British Council’s 2016 campaign, Shakespeare lives – a global celebration of William Shakespeare’s work on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of his death in 2016.
Amanda will share her work at the Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast on October 31.
The Kitchen runs at the Grand Opera House from October 21-22. For more information on this or other Belfast International Arts Festival events visit http://www.belfastfestival.com.