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Hanson Leatherby

An Evening of Meat

26 May 2018 Emily May

The brain child of American director/choreographer Kate March along with her all female performance collective I AM, An Evening of Meat is a dinner installation that aims to explore “fierce femininity” in its various forms, from vulnerability to strength and power, stability to wildness, sensuality to domestication. Having previously received rave reviews in Sydney, Hong Kong and Berlin, March’s masterpiece returns to The Vaults in Waterloo for a series of provocative performance-come-dining experiences running until 2 June.

The Vaults itself are a must-visit venue. Located on Leake Street, Waterloo, alternative theatre and art performances – including An Evening of Meat - take place in a maze of disused railway arches.
 
You can enjoy a relaxed drink before the performance (believe me you’ll need it) in The Vaults bar area, which is all exposed brickwork and fairy lights – a hipster’s dream. You are then led through the makeshift kitchen, and up the stairs into the performance space…

Photo: Hanson Leatherby

Bathed in red neon light, the room is lined with three tressel tables, each with a female performer curled up in a ball, their positions comparable to that of a cooked ham or hog roast. As everyone is seated and hors d'oeuvre are served, pulsating electronic music by LA-based composer Patrick Rivera jumpstarts the dancers into action. Uncurling from their submissive positions, they execute a series of intricate hand gestures, reminiscent of vogueing, under the control of a fourth dominatrix like dancer stood in the centre of the room. They stop. Everyone claps. But that is not the end.

 Photo: Hanson Leatherby

The dancers never break character throughout the entire evening (which is to be commended), and whilst there are moments of choreography, the main meat (pardon the pun) of the performance is comprised of seemingly improvised interactions with the audience. Crawling across the tables, adopting sexual positions, spitting cherries out onto diner’s empty plates and gazing deep into their eyes in intense staring contests are all part of the performers’ repertoire. As the evening goes on, they become increasingly animalistic, bashing the tables in bull fight–esque scenes, making the cutlery rattle, and you fear for the safety of your glass of red. Despite this escalation in activity, you also become more immune to their presence, desensitized to the rampant sexuality, almost forgetting there’s a human woman parading herself before you in a sensual bra and fishnets. If you realize this, you’ll understand the intended message of the evening; “No one deserves to be treated like a piece of meat.” However, on the whole, the performance feels entertainment based, the professed serious message often lost amidst the novelty of the dinner theatre experience, and the giggles incited by intense and at times humorous exchanges with the performers.

 Photo: Hanson Leatherby

The menu – as the title of the event suggests – is a six-course meat feast concocted by Michelin trained Head Chef Chavdar Todorov. When glancing over the extensive menu of chicken liver, carpaccio, and pig cheek oysters, even the most carnivorous diner may be left a feeling a little uneasy at the forthcoming meat overload (perhaps a covert aim of the night is to encourage us all to become vegetarian by immersion therapy?). That would be if it all didn’t taste so good! The braised mutton shoulder with sweet garden peas and spearmint is a standout dish, and the luxurious 70% Guanaja chocolate and olive oil ganache, interestingly served in an ashtray, is a welcome sweet diversion from the preceding meaty marathon. That is, until one of the performers demands you spoon-feed her, and you reluctantly oblige.
 
An Evening of Meat is showing at The Vaults, Waterloo until 2 June 2018.
 
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