Cuisine and Confessions

Circus troupe shares kitchen acrobatics, along with some banana bread

By DEENA FERGUSON
Special to The Union Leader
April 12. 2017 12:58PM
“Seven Fingers of the Hand: Cuisine and Confessions” is a stage show that combines acrobatics, music, memories and some tasty treats. 

Sometimes a play or performance is referred to as “a treat.”

In the case of “Seven Fingers of the Hand: Cuisine and Confessions,” which is coming to The Music Hall in Portsmouth Wednesday, April 19, there may be a more literal meaning.

Food is a central theme in this show — the memories it evokes, the joy it brings, the relationships people have with it beyond nourishment. But even after asking director Shana Carroll to explain “Seven Fingers” and what will transpire on stage next week, one thing became clear: This will have to be seen to be believed.

And if you come early, be prepared to chop vegetables. Seriously.

Carroll was at home in Montreal with a sick 8-year-old when NH Weekend reached out to her about “Seven Fingers,” something she and her husband, Sebastien Soldevila, crafted.

“We co-directed it. We cast the artists. We found the theme,” Carroll said of “Seven Fingers,” which refers to the seven performers in the play. “But it was very collaborative in that we built the show with them all. This theme is something that’s very close to our hearts. And it’s sort of close to everyone’s hearts when you get talking about food memories. Food is at the center of a lot of our memories. This show celebrates that.”

Carroll said the story doesn’t have a linear story line.

“These are the real-life stories of these performers. Some of the stories we tell in their entirety and some of them we just take little pieces here or there. But we’re very loyal to the theme,” she said.

It will be an evening of dance, acrobatics, song, storytelling and, yes, cooking.

“It is great to get there early because during the first half-hour, as the audience is getting into the theater, many of them will be kidnapped — well, not really kidnapped, but rounded up — to help with the prep,” Carroll said. “Cutting vegetables, grating cheese, talking to the performers and getting a little tour of our kitchen, all of that. They’re in the kitchen, like when you’re early to a dinner party and you get your hands dirty and decide to help cut the vegetables. Just like that.”

All of the food prepped before the show will be cooked on stage during the performance.

“There’s a moment when we cook an omelet in a choreography,” she explained. “There’s a big moment where they’re juggling whisks and throwing eggs and cooking this omelet. And we serve the omelet to one lucky lady in the audience. … It’s a sort of joyful, joyous cooking moment. But the omelet is the link to a bittersweet personal story of one of the performers. So we have that poignant link, but we take it somewhere entirely different with the choreography.”

And there’s a sweet treat, too.

“We make a banana bread. It’s based on another story. We have audience members come on stage and mix ingredients during an acrobatic performance,” Carroll said. “So then we put it in the oven and we have the audience set the timers on their phones, and at the end of the show, we share the banana bread.”

How many touring companies bring a complete kitchen to a show?

“It’s kind of fun on tour to have a stove, because you are often just eating whatever. It was my birthday early in the tour and they made me a chili, and it was really special to have something homemade so far from home,” she said.

“Our desire is to engage the other senses, not just sight and hearing, but smell and touch, which are very strong, very emotional senses,” Carroll said. “If the ventilation is right, we can smell the rosemary, you can smell the banana bread baking.”

Carroll and Soldevila are not typical theatrical directors. Carroll, born and raised in Southern California, fell in love with trapeze at 18, “which is very late,” she said. Self-taught initially, she later trained at the National Circus School in Montreal. From there, she became the principal trapeze artist for Cirque du Soleil.

It was on tour with Cirque du Soleil that she met Soldevila, who was the French national champion in acrosport, a discipline which blends the artistry of gymnastics with the strength to, as an example, build human pyramids. A simplified description of Soldevila’s role in Cirque du Soleil is he was the guy on the bottom holding up everyone else.

Cirque Troupe’s “Seven Fingers of The Hand" is at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 19, at The Music Hall, 28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth. Tickets are $25, $48 and $60. Info: 436-2400; themusichall.org.


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