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Review: The Kitchen was experimental theatre at its tastiest

The Kitchen at Grand Opera House, Belfast, was a real treat for the eyes, the ears and the stomach

By Andrew Johnston

On the menu at the Belfast Festival last night was a live cookery show that made a meal of any Bake Off or Kitchen Nightmare.

Concocted around two main ingredients - drumming and cooking - Roysten Abel's The Kitchen was experimental theatre at its tastiest.

The 70-minute performance was served up in the Grand Opera House, an ambient environment in which to sample the sights, sounds and smells of South India.

In centre stage, a man and a woman in traditional Indian dress stirred huge pots of payasam, an Asian dessert comprising rice, sugar, almonds, milk, raisins, cardamom and ghee.

Behind them, a dozen percussionists banged out hypnotic rhythms on mizhavu drums - a kind of barrel-shaped, copper bongo - whilst perched on a series of metal platforms.

There was a ceremonial feel to Indian Shakespeare Company founder Abel's unconventional, multi-sensory piece, evoking ancient religious practices and cultural rituals.

Theatre audiences are used to having their hearts and minds tested once the curtain parts, but The Kitchen operated on a more gut level, literally. It was a treat for the stomach, not just for the eyes and the ears.

After the show, the payasam was passed around for everyone to have a taste, which proved a sublime encore to a delicious evening's entertainment.

Four stars

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