BWW Review: OZASIA FESTIVAL 2019: SURPASSING THE BEELINE at Banquet Room, Adelaide Festival Centre

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BWW Review: OZASIA FESTIVAL 2019: SURPASSING THE BEELINE at Banquet Room, Adelaide Festival CentreReviewed by Barry Lenny, Thursday 31st October 2019.

It has been a decidedly culinary-based OzAsia Festival for me this year. Food was involved in The Village, and in Cuckoo, and central to The Dark Master, seen previously, and it takes centre place in Surpassing The Beeline, as six expatriates host a dinner party where each prepared a meal from their homeland to share with the audience. The work was created by Abhishek Thapar and co-commissioned by Frascati Theatre, Amsterdam, having first been performed there.

The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that an expatriate is "
A person who lives outside their native country". It is a simple, straightforward sentence, a clear definition, but it means much, much more because there are so many different reasons why a person chooses, or is forced by circumstances, to leave the place of their birth forever.

A beeline, being the shortest distance between two points, is used here to refer to the significance of certain things that can take one back, in the mind, to earlier times. Food is one of those great memory triggers. Even just the mere mention of some much-loved dish cooked by a parent when one was a child is sufficient to bring memories flooding back. That is the concept behind this event.

Indian-born and Amsterdam-based Abhishek Thapar meets and greets the audience in the Banquet Room, once we have been ushered in from the foyer. He points out that leaving your homeland for another is much about separation, and then we are led to tables in the Banquet Room, voluntarily separated from those with whom we arrived, although some chose to remain together.

I am an English expatriate, having left in 1966, with my parents and siblings, and I have never returned, not even for a holiday, so I never saw any of my relatives and friends again. The change was not as culturally significant as that of each of the six people we meet, of course, but there was much that echoed in my own experiences.

Entering the venue we found three large tables, each seating a little over a dozen people, with dishes and drinks spread out and two presenters at each table awaiting us. It was pleasing to note that the plates, dishes, and cutlery were all ecologically-based disposable items. Even more pleasing was the wide variety of colours, textures, and odours presented to us. We sat down in great anticipation, and introduced ourselves to others around the table. Before long, we were chatting like old friends. A communal meal can do that, and it was a serendipitous additional aspect to the event.

The six people: Gabriel 'DyspOra' Akon, Elsy Wameyo, Asha Krishnan, Rinku Kalsy, Vaishali Nanda, and Sahil Sahniare, pair up and spend time at each table, sharing their food and drink, and telling their stories, from childhood to today. The first three people mentioned live here in Adelaide, and the other three, all originally from India and now living in the Netherlands, travel with Thapar, having been involved in developing this work.

The stories were diverse, ranging in scope from the big picture, to the personal and intimate, from a potted history of the European nations' invasion and division of Africa amongst themselves that led to the problems facing the original inhabitants' descendents today, to parental pressure to continue a tradition that conflicts with modern feminist thought. The commonality across the six narratives, though, was the happiness and successes that the six had found through leaving their birthplaces for foreign climes.

The stories were inspiring, enlightening, educational, and thoroughly absorbing, sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant, and the time flew past. As for the food and drinks, I would jump at the chance to consume any of them again, and again. This was something very different and it all ended too soon for everybody who attended. We could happily have stayed much longer, eating, drinking, and talking to the six presenters and to one another late into the evening, as one does when enjoying a superb meal and great company.

This is an event that is sure to remain in the minds of those who were there, for a long time to come, and it will certainly bring a smile or two at the memories.



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