Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Friday, 3 July 2015
Saltwater, July 2, 2015 ***1/2
By Jamie Lewis (Part of Double Bill: Saltwater & Letters Home by Joe Lui) Theatre Works, until July
12, 2015 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: ***1/2
Review also published in Herald Sun in print on Tues July 7, 2015 & later online. KH
her dinner guests arrive, Jamie Lewis sits quietly at a large, round dinner
table, plucking the scruffy bits from a pile of bean sprouts.
invites the 15 of us to help her pluck sprouts then directs us to hang our
coats and bags.
we start the sprout plucking, she gently washes our hands in a soothing ritual that
involves orange-scented soap and a hanging garden of washing bowls and carafes
of warm water.
follows is an hour of dinner-table conversation, food preparation and eating
that engages the guests/audience as co-creators of this evening of – can we
call this performance, or is it a social experiment with artistic process?
we call it, Jamie (I can’t call her by her surname after dining with her) is charming,
warm, and pensive and the perfect host that makes all her guests feel
comfortable and welcome.
plain, wooden table is spread with sheets of Chinese language newspaper piled with
bean sprouts. Some guests pluck silently and meditatively while others chatter nervously
until Jamie eventually starts to talk.
unobtrusively shifts the focus to herself as she tells autobiographical stories
about her mother, her Singapori culture, identity, marriage and food.
by her unintrusive questioning, Jamie’s guests muse on how we learned to cook,
whether our mothers taught us about cooking and what foods we associate with
and deliberately, Jamie paints a picture of her relationship with her rather
strict mother and how she, Jamie, learned to cook by observing because her
mother would not teach her.
cooks us a meal that she describes as a vegetarian version of a Singapori
favourite know as Devil’s Curry, a dish that her mother prepares with chicken
feet, chicken necks and hot dogs – yes, hot dogs.
cooks. We eat. We all chat about our lives with the strangers seated beside us
while Jamie intermittently and imperceptibly draws our focus back to her own
reveals her mother’s cryptic words of wisdom about marriage and relates her own
moment of enlightenment while on a water slide at Wet and Wild.
performance changes subtly with every new audience, but in the case of
Saltwater, the audience is part of the evolution of the performance each night,
which makes the evening strangely personal and difficult to assess.
is certainly room for Jamie to expand the narrative elements of Saltwater by
adding more stories about her life, her family, her culture and identity.
there is no need for her to increase the number of people on the guest list
because that would ruin the intimacy of the night and the sweet charm of eating