The last thing one would expect a theatre-maker to talk about is their obsession with food, but Amey Mehta doesn’t seem to think there is anything strange about it. “I think about food all the time and my friends associate me with food,” says the Mumbai-based actor, choreographer and director.
Little wonder then that the first play he is about to roll out from his recently-launched Sunny Side Up Productions is a supper theatre piece titled Food Stories. Four short stories written by four different writers with one common thread – you guessed it – food! Mehta’s brief to the writers – Asif Ali Beg, Tahira Nath, Vidyuth Gargi and Vikrant Dhote - was to pen down stories that were not about food per say, but they revolve around the subject. The first two opening shows will be held at The Sassy Spoon, Nariman Point and Ishaara, High Street Phoenix in Mumbai on May 22 and May 26 respectively.
And this is where it gets interesting. Not only will the four stories be staged inside these restaurants, the audience will also be served food between the different acts. The concept, Mehta says, came to him by observing plays that have been staged inside eateries. “I realized that these could be performed at any venue. It didn’t feel that the restaurant added any value to it,” he says, explaining the aim was to create something which happens when people are eating, drinking and having a good time. “So, the other thing I told my writers was that these evenings are celebrations. I didn’t want sad stories. I wanted mad stories that are super fun,” he shares.
Sample this. In the first story, three SoBo guys go to meet their dead friend’s widow only to start talking about food each time she tries to tell them how he died. The second story stems from a conversation between a nutritionist and her client who is trying to lose weight for all the wrong reasons. The third tale, which is a movement piece, revolves around the journey of a mutton curry recipe that has travelled from a small village in India to the MasterChef series in the UK. The fourth, also Mehta’s favourite, is a courtroom drama about a food critic and a chef who are fighting over the true version of a sambhar. The director shares that in this particular story, the audience become the jury members and declare their verdict.
So, when and how does the actual food figure in this? Mehta explains that each piece is around 15-minutes long and will be followed by one course. “After the first act, the first course will be served and after a break of ten minutes or so, the second act will be followed by the second course and so on,” he says. Interestingly, the audience will be able to see the inspiration behind the dishes from what they have just witnessed on stage. At The Sassy Spoon, for instance, some of the dishes which will be served include Avocado and Corn Chaat, Mac and Cheese with Mushrooms, Roast Chicken with Baked Potato and Rasmalai Saffron Mousse.
A theatre piece generally demands the full attention of the audience and in a traditional set-up, everyone’s focus is on what is in front of them. Most auditoriums in fact, do not allow even a bottle of water inside, forget food and drinks. Ask Mehta if he isn’t concerned about any sort of chaos ensuing from an unconventional set-up such as his supper theatre piece and he is quick to dismiss it.
“In a theatre set-up, you look at a play very differently. You tend to over-intellectualise it and over-analyse things but when you’re in a set where you can let your guard down, it becomes more fun,” he says, adding that he loves the traditional set-up as well and will continue to work in that space but here, he just wants people to have a great evening. “Even the seating will be community style,” says Mehta, who has already had enquiries from Pune, Bengaluru and Hyderabad to stage similar plays there.
Food Stories will be held in Mumbai at The Sassy Spoon, Nariman Point on May 22 at 7.30 pm and at Ishaara, High Street Phoenix on May 26 at 8.30 pm. The ticket price is ₹3,499 per person for both venues.
Deepali Singh is a Mumbai-based writer.
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