At the weekend I had my second experience of a zoom cook-a-long theatre piece, you may remember from my social posts and videos I attended a Recipe for Disaster by Big Telly Theatre Company a few weeks ago and this weekend I joined Rice! a Wayang Kitchen and Omnibus Theatre co-production.
Although both productions use the same format; attendees are walked through a couple of recipes with a chef and then are brought into an interactive piece of theatre, these two pieces of theatre couldn’t be any more different. Whereas Big Telly’s piece was an 80’s wedding party with a lot of melodrama and fun but with a little hidden message on loneliness in the pandemic. Rice! was a very unique culinary experience with a very serious subject matter; the highs and lows of migration to the UK. We begin the piece by zooming all the way to the Wayang Kitchen in Malaysia, where we cook traditional Malaysian foods; Congee Rice and tea eggs. Congee rice is a malaysian rice porridge which takes a lot of time, we started cooking the rice in the live stream at 11.30am and it was ready to eat at 1am. The recipes where easy to follow and the chef was delightful and informative, able to respond to questions in real time. We left the kitchen with our eggs boiled, our tea boiling and her rice simmering and we entered the kitchen of our Connie Cheng a british Chinese Malysian women.
When we first meet Connie we are introduced to her through a fairy tale character, a little plastic princess, we see her cook and listen to her story. The story then becomes the tale of two Connies (Michelle Wen Lee in the UK, Amanda Ang in Malaysia), written by Vera Chok, directed by Hester Welch and Razif Hashim of Wayang Kitchen.
Unfortunately the production had a couple of technical difficulties so we lost a few lines but we still picked up that the story began as an American Dream or rather a British one (as Connie doesn’t quite make it to America.) We hear how she needed to leave Kuala Lumpur and how she is almost disowned by her family when she does and how she is not adopted by her new country, that she doesn’t fit in either. There is a lot to take in from the “filter of foreigners” to the monologue of “10 things I hate about me” being a Northern Irish women (who at one point was not welcome in England either; No blacks, No Dogs, No Irish) with her eggs going bad and wanting badly to live my own life in the City away from my country home a lot of this hit home but it was a lot especially after an hours cooking. I may be wrong but I think this piece would work better as two characters on a stage having a conversation with each other, even if it was still via zoom. I felt a lot of impact was lost as I stood in my kitchen cracking eggs, again just my personal opinion.
However there was a lot I liked about the production, the performances by both Michelle Wen Lee and Amanda Ang are full of warmth and almost gossipy. Amanda Ang makes you feel like her friend who is confiding in you, telling you about her career advancements and her downfalls, with a cheeky reference to Wen Lee’s role of Mimi in the West End Miss Saigon . Michelle Wen Lee felt like a wise grandma reminiscing as she cooked and reminding you that things could be worse. It was an experience and as I said at the start it was very unique and I do hope we will see a stage version of this production when finally theatres reopen.
Emer D xx
Find out more about this production at omnibus-clapham.org.