The Theatre Practice (TTP) has always been a pioneer of different theatre experiences in Singapore, such as the Poor Theatre Series a few years back. This year, TTP has come up with the Practice Tuckshop, a move to bring the arts to the community as a collaborative space in front of TTP’s headquarters along Waterloo Street.
In-line with their aim of bringing people and art together with food and drink, their latest initiative has been titled the Kitchen Series, where they explored the concept of the ‘Space of Taboos’. Supported by the National Heritage Board, Kitchen Series – #AHMA is a unique immersive theatre experience that seeks to unearth the untold stories of our heritage. Led and moderated by TTP Artistic Director Kuo Jian Hong, Kuo herself prepared a four course meal live using recipes from her own personal collection while sharing stories relating to the dishes prepared.
Kitchen Series – #AHMA is a very personal experience, where Kuo shared her own memories of growing up with the various dishes she was preparing. Assisted by Gloria Ang, the duo cooked up a total of four dishes for us, each with its own backstory. Kuo is a talented storyteller and captured our attention easily from her very first dish of Shredded Chicken Vermicelli (鸡丝粉皮) to her final presentation of Flour Tea (面茶).
In particular, Kuo’s story of her second dish of Chinese dumplings (饺子) stuck with us, explaining to the audience why it was that the dumplings had so much vegetables through an account of her childhood. Growing up in Hebei in a time where refrigerators didn’t exist, most of the meat in Kuo’s youth was cured or salted, and to even get the meat they had to travel great distances to other villages just to buy it. This made vegetables the go-to choice as stuffing, with a little cured meat to go along with it. We happened to attend a session for parents and their children, and the kids were really fascinated by Kuo’s stories. Later on, the kids even got to participate and try making their own dumplings, and we must say, they were pretty successful!
Kuo also shared the secret behind her third dish, Zhajiangmian (炸酱面). Kuo explained how every province in China does Zhajiangmian differently, and Hebei’s specialty was using sweet bean paste and potatoes in the recipe. Her family’s special ingredient though, was abalone sauce, an addition that was made when a family member decided to add that extra bit of flavour before passing it down to future generations.
Overall, Kitchen Series – #AHMA feels like a warm, familial dinner party where people come together and open up about their experiences and food heritage. It was very heartening to see the families in attendance sharing with each other about their own popiah recipes, exchanging information and spreading their love of food. Even the kids’ ears perked up, interested in finding out more about their own heritage.
With #AHMA being the first iteration of Kitchen Series, there’s still plenty of space to expand on and improve the concept. But from the promising start we’ve seen so far, it seems that Singaporeans are very warm to new experimental theatre forms such as this. With the benefit of being in an area that’s been steadily growing as a mini arts hub, TTP leads the way in pioneering new accessible forms of theatre, and we look forward to seeing just what they cook up next.
For more information on the next iteration of the Kitchen Series, follow The Theatre Practice on Facebook, or head on down to the Practice Tuckshop on Saturdays and Sundays till 11 June to participate. The next part of their Space of Taboos series, ‘Huh?? Artist Wellness?’, a dialogue, will take place on Monday 29th May at the Practice Tuckshop. Tickets available on Peatix