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Review: Three Courses @ MeatSmith Little India (ARTWALK Little India 2020)

Screenshot 2020-01-19 at 11.11.09 AM

★★★☆☆ (Performance attended 18/1/20)
Eavesdropping on millennial conversations while enjoying a good meal. 

ARTWALK Little India has never shied away from programming at least one interdisciplinary performance into its diverse line-up of activities, and this year, features a ‘three-course’ meal of playlets staged at two restaurants (Chimichanga on Friday and MeatSmith Little India on Saturday) in Little India.

Written by Aswani Aswath, Chen Cuifen and Harish Rama, students of LASALLE’s MA Creative Writing programme, and directed by Michael Earley, LASALLE’s Dean of Performing Arts, the LASALLE effort is completed by having the plays performed by BA (Hons) Acting Programme Year 3 students. In each of the three plays, a pair of millennials meet at a restaurant, and engage in conversation with each other. As fellow diners, we are then ‘eavesdropping’ on their conversations, while we dine on our own meals.

At the performance we attended on Saturday at MeatSmith Little India, the show was accompanied by a three-course dinner. We started the evening with our starter – an Ikura Papadum. Mimicking a soft taco, the soft papadum was topped with both large and small globules of Japanese roe, there was a delightful medley of textures with every bite. The roe bursting in our mouths and the various spices coming together  was a joy to eat, and definitely whetted our appetites and got us wanting more.

To further enhance the starter, performers Shahid Bin Abdul Nasheer and Wayne Lim took to a table in front of the diners, and got ready to perform Harish Manon’s One For The Road. As our ‘starter’ play, we watched as the two actors played primary school friends catching up with each other over a few beers. Speaking of the different paths they went in, the two mused over how much things have changed, and the various ways their lives have been shaped. One of them comments ‘life seemed so much easier back in primary school’, and we cannot help but feel a twinge of nostalgia for our own innocent childhoods, as they take their conversation out of the restaurant.

Our main course for the evening was the Beef Seekh Kebab. The beef kebab was cooked well, succulent and full of flavour. When drizzled with lime, the flavours came alive. Served with warm flatbread fresh from the oven. On the side, we were also served a bowl of biryani, aromatic and topped with ikura and crab meat to add a little luxury to the Indian staple. Both dishes were beautiful combinations of flavours that showed what MeatSmith Little India stood for.

For our ‘main course’ play, we were served Aswani Aswath’s Chicken of the Woods, as performed by Lauren Sim and Damien Ng. Playing two very different individuals meeting for a first date, it immediately becomes obvious that there’s a huge gulf between the civil servant and food blogger, and the date goes right into painfully awkward territory. Playwright Aswani shows off a good awareness of millennial trends and character archetypes, from the intellectual trying to show off her academic knowledge, to the ‘nice guy’ who awkwardly navigates his way around avoiding his ex. Meaty and delightfully cringe-inducing, Chicken of the Woods is an awful date brought to life, and even manages to evoke a laugh from time to time, leaving us curious to find out more about both of these characters and how the rest of their lives might play out.

Finally, we ended our meal with dessert, as we were served a coconut topped with a layer of meringue, blowtorched at our table for dramatic effect. We then dug in and were surprised with a refreshing treasure trove of berries, and creamy jackfruit to balance the flavours. It was a sophisticated end to the meal and a great introduction to what MeatSmith was capable of.

And for our final play of the night, we were presented with Chen Cuifen’s Off The Mat, a light-hearted piece about the friendship between two yoga enthusiasts, played by Kimberley Ng and Rochelle Edelweiss Boon. Each of them express casual jealousy at the other for their respective lives they’ve led, where the grass always seems greener on the other side. Where one harbours ambitions of becoming a yoga teacher (with her tote bag bearing rainbow-hued words adding a nice touch), the other has entered the corporate world and lives a relatively stable life. There was evident tension between both actresses, and the conversation felt both real and natural, while never getting too heavy despite the subject matter, making for a pleasant end to the three performances.

Three Courses was a pleasant evening out that manages to incorporate theatre with a three-course meal rather smoothly, in spite of the non-traditional performance space. The conversations are casual and easy to understand and listen to, not heavy on plot and acting as good entertainment while we enjoyed the wonderful meal from MeatSmith. A collaboration such as this is proof that the arts doesn’t have to be high concept or intimidating to be good, and if anything, the millennial vernacular, relatable issues and welcoming set-up ensured that Three Courses made for a pleasant night out at the restaurant, and encapsulates how ARTWALK Little India continues to serve up innovative art forms in each new edition.

Three Courses played on 18th January 2020 at MeatSmith Little India, 21 Campbell Lane, as part of ARTWALK Little India 2020. ARTWALK Little India ran from 10th to 11th, and 17th to 18th January 2020 around Little India. 

Singapore Art Week 2020 took place from 11th to 19th January 2020 across various locations. For a full list of events and more information, visit the website here


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