Before the start of this event, and I choose the word carefully, I did not know what to expect and chatting to other people on our shared table that seemed to be pretty general. I knew this was based on the classic Symposium, where our ancient thinkers ate, drank and talked about love.
Clearly there was going to be interaction so I decided to launch straight into chatting with all the people around me but with the consequence they thought I was part of the show and kept waiting for me to spring to my feet.
As it was this Intangible Studio presentation of what they described as an innovative feast for all the senses at Chapter, by combining Zuppa Theatre (Halifax, Nova Scotia), Shirotama Hitsujiya (Artistic Director of Yubiwa Hotel, Tokyo, Japan) and local theatre-makers Valmai Jones and James Tyson theatre with a Michelin-starred tasting experience was more performance and less audience involvement than I had expected.
The theme was to reflect on philosophise about erotic love in the 21st century by having a series of speakers, following the formula of the original Symposium, to debate the relative merits of their take on Eros. Along the way we were asked to taste these specially created snacks which were supposed to similarly challenge, stimulate, stir whatever our perception of look and taste.
With the involvement of James Tyson and Welsh-speaking Valmai Jones we had both languages spoken at the beginning and at end of the show but the vast majority of the speeches, songs and apparent banter was between the three Canadians Ben Stone, Susan Leblanc, Stewart Legere and Shirotama Hitsujiya who played a Japanese tourist so I assume is Japanese. Would it have worked had all of the new age, outlandish, radical chic, in your face, quasi intellectual content been spoken and sung in a Cardiff accent I do not know. I suspect not. Valmai Jones Welsh, and also English, sat rather oddly with the soft charm of the Canadian accents.
It was the sound and video from Stewart Legere, David Christiensen, Brian Riley and Nick Bottomley, with additional songs from James Tyson, that held the evening together in a somewhat new age sort of West Coast 60s vibe with an electro spacey feel and brazen big numbers, particularly from cheeky and sassy Legere.
The food from Dennis Johnston did challenge our traditional taste senses by having things like a cheesecake made with parsnip and sugar in a savoury sandwich but to be honest if you try different cuisines none of this really jarred much.
Maybe it was the audience but there really wasn’t much interaction apart from watching with a smile and a chuckle and when the audience members were asked to give their own examples of embarrassing things they had done for love some of the contributions were gross rather than illuminating.
I have to confess at slightly losing concentration towards the end but this may have partly been because we were roped off from the rest of the Chapter Bar and with all the usual coming and going it was quite distracting. Towards the end there seemed to be lots of interest from those on the other side of the “cordoned off” area and they could possibly see more as they were not seated and despite being encouraged to feel free to move around no-one did.