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Surpassing the Beeline: a dinner party at the theatre

Festivals

Audience members take on the role of guests at an intimate dinner party where six expatriates bring their stories to the table and share food from their home countries in an unusual theatre experience at this month’s OzAsia Festival.

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Surpassing the Beeline is directed by Netherlands-based theatre-maker Abhishek Thapar and seeks to explore “intentional migration”.

Described as “a theatrical-culinary experience”, it will be presented in the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Banquet Room with only around 45 audience members at a time and six “performers” – three expats from Amsterdam and three from Adelaide.

The Adelaide participants who will share their personal histories and dishes are singer/songwriter Elsy Wameyo, who grew up in Nairobi and Kenya; arts enthusiast and food lover Asha Krishnan, who was born in Malaysia; and hip-hop artist, poet and activist Gabriel “DyspOra” Akon, who spent his youth in South Sudan, Kenya and much of East Africa.

Below, Thapar explains how Surpassing the Beeline came about and also what audiences can expect from his other OzAsia Festival show, My Home at the Intersection.

Why did you choose a dinner party setting to explore immigration stories in Surpassing the Beeline?

During the earlier phase of research in the Amsterdam chapter, we soon discovered that ‘food’ is a very strong element that constructs home for most of the participants. So we started a practice of cooking together and sharing stories about home, food memories, nostalgia, politics, immigration and everything on the dinner table.

This intimate setting not only created comfort but also created a deep personal connection with the storyteller. This prompted me to extend the practice for the audience as well.

To what extend is the concept for this show inspired by your own personal experience of immigrating from India to the Netherlands?

It was very inspired by my experience of moving to Netherlands. When I moved, food was my only real connection to home. Sharing this with people who felt the same was the birth of the project.

How did you go about selecting the six expatriates involved in Surpassing the Beeline at OzAsia?

There are two important components of this work: storytelling and food. I was keen to work with expats who have a deeper relationship to food and have a flair for storytelling. But then also, I always ask my collaborators, what would you like to gain out of this project? So in that sense, we find a mutual ground where we can meet and collaborate and learn together.

What is an example of the type of stories and dishes that will be shared?

One of the things served during the show is a warm cup of Indian tea, ‘chai’, by Vaishali Nanda. She shares a story of Karva Chauth, which is a North Indian traditional festival in which married women would fast for an entire day for the long life of their husband.

She shares her personal experience of this festival, when she had to fast and the only thing she was allowed to drink was this cup of tea. She reflects, together with the audience, on what this cup of tea meant for her and how moving away from India allows her to make certain choices of what to accept or reject from the tradition.

Abhishek Thapar in My Home at the Intersection.

Your other OzAsia Festival work, My Home at the Intersection, takes a very different approach to storytelling – can you briefly describe it?      

My Home at the Intersection is a collaborative performance I made with my family. It deals with three generations growing up in the state of Punjab set against the political conflict in the mid-1980s.

It’s a performance which deals with memories and an attempt at a ritual of ‘Going back to forget’. This performance shares the story set in the landscape of Punjab using storytelling, film, miniatures, taste and tactility.

Surpassing the Beeline will be presented in the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Banquet Room from October 29-31. My Home at the Intersection will be at the centre’s Rehearsal Room from November 2-3. 

Read more 2019 OzAsia Festival stories here.

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