There were highlights and personalities whose outgoing warmth and articulation exemplify the best of these approaches. Melvin Diggs and Sidney Bateman’s hoop diving narrative with wooden squares tightly threads well-spoken words over music, carrying the metaphoric “box” they dynamically pass through to satisfying conceptual and technical achievement. There’s something truly rewarding about this piece… seeing real heroes with big skills who demonstrate acts of transcendence layered with intimate details from family history and personal trials… all told in relation to the humble omelet. Further strength is found in the hand-to-hand duo between Ferrero and Pineault, the aerial story of Kichtchenko, and Plaul’s use of Chinese pole to punctuate heavy aspects of family mystery alongside alternate imaginings with the warmth and simplicity of shared food, blood, and culture.
7 doigts marries the personal and universal, continuing its active ongoing experiment in tactics to break down the fourth wall. While they’ve stepped back from ambitious interactive site installation ala “Intersection” they still make an attempt to bring audiences into the work. Prior to the show’s start, the on-stage kitchen is casually set with performers who rattle off recipes alluding to future acts. They also collect and re-tell audience stories, an aspect I was lucky to be “chosen” for. The sudden exposure I felt when my ambling tale was repeated in public was surprising and charming, and added a lot to my personal experience—though of course has me wondering what effect this tactic would have as a longer or more developed play with a larger section of the room. For me this is both a strong moment driven by the spontaneity and presence of performer Matias Plaul, and also a critique point about the overall direction of experimentation that has its pluses and minuses. Other spectator play moments were markedly less successful, such as the on-stage introduction of an audience member trio, who are left to awkwardly make acquaintances, but in the end lacked the direction necessary to pull the attempt into purposeful territory.
So in the end, 7 doigts’ work toward interaction is mixed, and I wonder if it will take a certain amount of built-in improvisation and “looseness” to really facilitate the type of work they seem to aim for. In the case of their last show "Intersection", an elaborate interactive period was successfully intimate, domestic, and public, but the show’s radical shift turned the space into a problematic site/non-site, setting up initial expectations that were confused by the traditional audience-as-spectator relationship held for the rest of the show. Still interesting, of course, but as with "Confessions", I find myself incredibly inspired by these ideas at moments, yet waiting to see them fully and meaningfully integrated with rehearsed stage elements. There is power in both sides of the equation, yet it’s the flow between that can be jarring.
Overall, "Cuisine & Confessions" was a likeable show. The humanity of the characters felt quite authentic, the skills were abundant and will break-in over time, and the cast hit meaningful moments of darkness and light. The overall flow and choices of music were a bit up-and-down and not always my favorite, and I see many ideas present that are waiting for further development that may not occur. All said, however, I continue to watch 7 doigts’ work, always interested in where they will go next to explore new territory and tell stories, continuing the high-level work and ongoing experiments that make them international, long-time favorites.