Sunday 6 May 2018

Crunch Time - Next Wave Festival review

Imagine having a five-course meal with a group of strangers, where you must democratically vote on all the ingredients that will be used. What if someone is vegetarian or has allergies to pineapple? Or simply doesn't like spicy food? Presented as part of Next Wave Festival, Counterpilot's Crunch Time has its participants doing just that, and as a result, leaves them thinking about much more than just their food choices.

Co-founded by Sandra Carluccio and Nathan Sibthorpe, Counterpilot's performative dinner party sits us around a table and through the use of some interactive tools, we vote on each ingredient that our guest chef will prepare in a kitchen that is a few metres away from where we dine. The chefs for each session are public figures in the arts world and include Georgie Meagher, the Director and CEO of Next Wave, and Simon Abrahams, the Artistic Director of Melbourne Fringe. In our session, we are treated to the culinary expertise of Wesley Enoch, the Artistic Director of Sydney Festival.

The 'game' begins as soon as we sit down where we must decide if we want tap, bottled or sparkling water for the duration of the performance. I'm off to a not-so-great start when sparkling is the winner, and my vote for an alcoholic beverage is up for grabs as wine and beer do not pass my lips so I ultimately don't care. The courses require us to choose ingredients from a pre-determined selection and what makes it more difficult is that these are presented to us in random groups of three in which one must be chosen. Do we choose anchovies, bacon or cheezels as a dessert item?

The effects of Crunch Time sneak up on you, and it was only later that I began to think about the challenges of running a country through a democratic process. Getting annoyed that chocolate was not included as an ingredient in one meal, or dealing with people who changed their mind at the last minute and others who seemed to go with the group mentality rather than choosing what they wanted, had you thinking about the consequences of our actions. While the meal was based on popular vote, how much choice did we actually have when we were already limited on the options we could select?

While this was a fun exercise in food selection, the recent result of the marriage equality plebiscite to have not been the outcome it was becomes even more frightening. Suddenly you begin to second-guess every vote you've ever cast and the impact it has had. You consider the scrutiny that every political decision goes through and how difficult it is to listen to the opinions of everyone involved, especially when the eight of us in Crunch Time struggled to do just that. The electronic timer running down the table further highlighted the difficulty of not only making sure that the voices around us were heard but, and possibly more importantly, that ours was too.

Dessert: Candied cheezels with longan and a garnish of milo.
Based on the group choices, Crunch Time has the potential to be a feast for the mouth, however the show is a definite feast for the eyes and ears thanks to Christine Felmingham's technical design and Mike Willmett's sound design. Video of the chef preparing our meals in the kitchen is projected onto the table via a live-feed, and at times Enoch appears on each of our digital plates as he reveals what he has cooked. Between courses, the coloured lighting projected onto the table and the dramatic music creates an uncertainty as to the result of not only what we have chosen for our chef to make, but also what we must now be brave enough to eat. Between meals, a Siri-like voice randomly asks us surprisingly revealing questions centred on the meal we've eaten and food in general, which leaves you with the feeling that you are a contestant in some kind of reality TV show merging of The Mole and The Apprentice.

Crunch Time is an incredibly well thought out and conceptualised interdisciplinary work that entertainingly highlights how the democratic process works and how it is very easy to disregard the thoughts and opinions of minorities. The overarching question that came up with our group - as I'm sure in all the others - was do we play it safe or do we go for adventure? While I was there to have fun and makes things as messy and interesting as possible, others were there to make considered choices to have the best meal possible. It's the majority that wins though, and much like our government, while we don't always get the outcome we wanted, we always get the outcome that was voted for.

Venue: Darebin Arts Centre, Cnr Bell St & St Georges Rd, Preston.
Season: until 12 May | Tues - Fri 7pm, Sat-Sun 12:30pm and 7pm
Length: 2.5 hours
Tickets: $40 Full | $35 Conc
Bookings: Next Wave Website

Main Photo Credit: Sean Dowling

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