Caro Meets Dance & Physical Interview

Luca Silvestrini: May Contain Food

By | Published on Thursday 21 April 2016


The latest show from renowned dance theatre company Protein is ‘May Contain Food’, which, as the title hints, explores our human and social responses to food.  This interesting piece is highly interactive, and sounds as though it might stretch the boundaries of the genre quite a bit.

To find out more, I put some questions to group founder Luca Silvestrini, who co-created the show with collaborator Orlando Gough.

CM: Tell us about ‘May Contain Food’ – what themes does it deal with? What can audiences expect?
LS: It’s a multi sensory, experiential show that explores the centrality of food and eating in people’s lives, using dance, text and singing. It was made in collaboration with composer Orlando Gough, who created an a cappella score of ensemble singing.

Four dancers and four singers perform the show in the round, and the audience is invited into a space that resembles a restaurant, a dining place.

Audiences should expect a fun and thought-provoking evening about food, hosted by a multi talented cast. They’ll be given a chance to connect with the different characters and to recognise feelings, thoughts and events. Food and eating are so intrinsically connected to our upbringing, family life, good moments and bad ones; there are specific flavours, smells, ingredients and recipes that will always bring us back to a person, a place, a moment in life.

CM: Your set is described as ‘interactive’? In what way? Can you tell us about the designer?
LS: I have collaborated with designer Yann Seabra to create a restaurant environment made by a set of round tales and which are framed by two tiled walls. Each one of this tables is characterised by a theme, from carbs and pasta to junk food, from vegetarianism to the nostalgia, allowing our guests a multi-sensory experience.

CM: What made you want to make a show about food?
LS: I’ve been thinking about a food-centered show for a while, although in my mind I had imagined a full dinner shared by both audience and performers sitting at a very long table. I remember proposing this to Orlando a few years ago and he became very fascinated about the idea – he’s a great chef and a food writer. We began to talk about it and eventually ‘May Contain Food’ came out.

For me, creating work is usually a way to respond to and react to life events, my own ones as well as those that happen outside of me. I am turning 50 this year, and in the last couple of years I’ve had to, and wanted to, become a more conscious eater. It has been fascinating to explore the subject and discover how intricate, and often disturbed, our relationship to eating can be, and how easily food becomes a substitute for something we miss, have lost or need.

CM: Did you do any research for the piece? Did anyone or anything influence you in its creation?
Orlando and I shared a few books and films on food at the start of the process, which served to initiate a conversation and to inspire each other imagination. Further material was also brought in by the performers. I believe Toast by Nigel Slater was the first book on the subject that I was introduced to.

CM: What made you want to collaborate with Orlando Gough? Is it a partnership that’s likely to be renewed in the future?
LS: Orlando and I had worked together before. We’ve been both fascinated by the possibility of creating a show where dance and live singing could become one and merge into one language. I love to think that another interesting and challenging creative opportunity will bring us back together.

CM: Is it important to you to inject humour into your work? Do you think it helps to make it more accessible to a wider audience?
LS: I usually do not look for humour, instead it comes out naturally from the situations and tasks I set up for the performers to improvise around. More than thinking that humour makes the work accessible, I’d like to think that humour allows people to recognise and empathetically react to familiar and often uncomfortable, complex situations and life events.

CM: What’s next for the show?
LS: We have 25 shows at The Place and then national touring until the summer. In the autumn, we’ll tour two versions of it, the original one and a special reworking for the rural touring circuit. It will be fascinating to take it to some beautiful village halls around the country

CM: What’s next for you and Protein?
LS: Well, apart from touring ‘May Contain Food’, I am delighted that Protein is re-touring our large-scale outdoor show ‘(In)visible Dancing’ this summer. Alongside touring, we’ll carry on delivering our diverse range of participatory projects around the country.

‘May Contain Food’ is on at The Place from 21 Apr-7 May. Visit the venue website here for more info and to book.

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Photo: Alicia Clarke