The Rechabite’s first foray into dining with a difference has potential, says Erin Hutchinson, but lacks bite.
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‘Art Feast: The Darkness’, Perth Festival, The Rechabite ·
The Rechabite, 3 March, 2021 ·
“Art Feast” is a tantalising taste of cabaret, circus, multimedia and food, fashioned by Rechabite director Marcus Canning and Double Rainbow Chef Danny Sanchez. The show presents contrasting immersive experiences over two weeks, with “The Darkness” in week one to be followed by “The Light”.
On opening night of “The Darkness”, we were greeted by Rechabite staff slickly dressed and masked. The atmosphere was instantly intriguing, and ascending the venue’s magnificent staircase made it even more exciting. A sign declaring the use of strobe, haze and “mind fuck”, indicated the audience were about to be plunged into a den of iniquity, and the hall’s vaulted architecture, contrasted against the newer industrial balconies, set the mood.
For me, though, the show lacked bite.
The opening act, a glitzed-up, gold-and-bronze-tasselled monster puppet – performed with deep resonance and wonderful gesture by Ginava – was thrillingly promising. Quotes referring to the French Revolution, “Eat the rich!”, and “Let them eat cake!”, emphasised the audience’s division into “High” and “Low” seating. As we sipped Perrier and peered down from our High balcony table to the Low audience members beneath us, this resonated delightfully while we were served beautifully presented oyster appetisers, part of our six-course degustation, and pondered the seating and dining differences.
Each night will be different as the format features a variety of guests alongside permanent artists. The performers are embedded within a visually thrilling filmscape, directed by Canning and team and featuring the voluptuous Smokey LaBare, a fur-robed Essie Foxglove and muscular Matthew Pope. If you’ve seen ‘Sinsuality’, ‘Caged’ or ‘Worship’ at Fringe World, you may be familiar with these performers (and their costumes) already.
But the live performances weren’t dark enough, kinky enough, or debauched enough to meet my expectations. There were a couple of tech issues on stage, and a wobbly raised turning platform for the performers was a little concerning. And the lack of cohesion throughout the performances was disappointing given the night had such strong opening and closing acts. The standout performers the night I attended were Elke Uhd and Beau Sargent, with their limber aerial work on the cyr wheel, but the focus of the whole evening is really on the food.
Sanchez’s degustation menu for the High tables looks great on paper but needs more practice in delivery. Food is voyeuristically served via a cherry picker managed by a hooded, adult-nappied Jon Madd. It’s a great concept and entertaining to watch, though I’m sure the Low attendees had a few jealous pangs. But it did mean the food sat for a time after being plated, and while dangling fairy-flossed pork belly from a string in front of you is a fascinating way to serve it, I’m sure the meat-eaters among us would have preferred their meals hot. I had the vegan menu, which was creatively delicious, so this wasn’t so much a problem for me. If you don’t mind being faced with a lot of meat, it’s certainly an experience to see, though this show is perhaps not the best choice for a serious vegan. One glimpse at the filmscape and you’ll see what I mean.
That said, there are some great talents on display, both in the acts and from the kitchen. For a first foray into dining with a difference, The Rechabite has presented with potential.
Pictured top: drag performer Ginava opens ‘Art Feast’ as a glitzed-up, gold-and-bronze-tasselled monster puppet. Photo by Matthew Gedling
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