Banned from performing in their own country by command of Europe’s last dictator, Belarus Free Theatre delivers a post-modernist and overtly political production. Written by Nicolai Khalezin and performed in English, Trash Cuisine purportedly offers ‘a cook’s tour of the globe’, but all pretenses aside, it more readily constitutes a metaphor for the exploration of torture, execution and egregious human rights violations that occur everyday across the world; it is a successful attempt to synthesise artistic imagination with informative and righteously acrimonious protest.
The first to greet us was our ‘host’ for the night, Pierre, a sarcastic realist who somehow managed to maintain an aura of concern. The mood quickly changed to something far more serious, however, when the first scene was introduced. Two female executioners from Belarus and Thailand discuss a number of inconveniences and gruesome experiences over strawberries and cream. It proved an interesting way to satirise the perceived trivialization of the general topic of death and executions, many of which incidentally occur extra-judicially. Further irony is provided in the form of the Thai official insisting upon the honouring of local burial procedures. The increasingly sinister Pierre then returned to the stage and enacted the controversial eating of an ortolan with frankly repulsive enjoyment: something that tradition dictates must be done with a napkin over the head to conceal such detestable greed from God. The result was a poignant and powerful example of the depths of human depravity.
In another sequence there was a brief biography on Liam Holden and Jorge Julio Lopez, both tortured into confessions of murder in Northern Ireland and Argentina respectively. Alongside was a nifty powerpoint presentation superseded only by a powerful depiction of waterboarding in the forefront.
The production pressed on at a quickening pace, continuing with a well choreographed interview with a prominent human rights lawyer. The goal was clear: to convey a strong condemnation of the media’s portrayal and excessive coverage of executions amounting to nothing less than sociopathic journalism. This was accompanied by several awkward impressions of various methods of execution. Nobody laughed because they weren’t supposed to be funny.
The latter stages of the show were dedicated to the portrayal of the carnage of the Rwandan Genocide. Phillipe calmly devolved the details of the killings while cooking rice and chopping liver for a stew. As we are told, the Belgians superimposed arbitrary identities - Hutu and Tutsi - which served only the purpose of mutual antagonism. Underlining all this was a tacit reprobation of the failure of UN intervention. For for all the human rights rhetoric, the international community stood idly and watched the slaughter of 800,000 Tutsis.
Though criticism seems impertinent, it must be admitted the last quarter of an hour tended to drag and some sections seemed to misfire. Nonetheless, the performance did end on a high note. What first seemed a rather puzzling proved original and highly innovative: the entire cast proceeded to chop up an inordinate number of onions, the vast majority of the audience leaving tearful visibly troubled, in this case certainly a barometer of successful. Aesthetically and politically brilliant, it will undoubtedly change the way to think about food. Or human rights, rather.