Cooking for love – A recipe to heartache?

Fringe Fest 2011 Review, 3 juni 2011, by Helen Ford

Out of all of the Prague Fringe performances, Iwan Dam´s Cooking For Love was the one I had looked forward to the most. Being both perpetually hungry and a bit of a foodie, this was as much to do with the offer of free food (Dam cooks as he acts, and his audience are invited to dine on the finished product) as with the strong reviews.

I arrived early to find the actor-chef preparing. There was already all manner of whisking and stirring taking place and some pretty inviting smells emanating from his on-stage kitchen (reminiscent of Ready, Steady, Cook!).

The whisking, stirring and smells are a constant throughout Dam´s beautifully executed love- story-cooking-show-travelogue.  As he tells the audience, through spoken word and song, of his love (or borderline obsession) with French Severine, a woman he meets at a Thai evening food market, Dam takes his audience across the world from Thailand (Quorn Satay) to the Netherlands (Pickled Herring with Beetroot Salad on Rye), to New York (Chicken Broth with Matzo Balls) to France (Salad Nicoise) and ultimately to India (Vegetarian Curry).

Dam uses his ingredients and props to add colour to his monologue: Piles of spices to show to Indian hills, the sound of the pestle and mortar reminding him of the engine of the bus where he first spoke to Severine, the sound of his knife shopping rhythmically, matching the sound of drums.  Whilst this was clever, the technique was possibly slightly overused and the New York scene in particular (mixing Crčme fraîche over chopped parsley to show snow settling on grass) was a little cringemaking.

This is a small complaint though to an otherwise faultless show. There is so much going on in this performance, that it could risk being chaotic or disjointed.  Dam´s execution however, is very competent and slick. This results in an incredibly compelling and moving story of unrequited love and the wistful longing for the ‘one who got away´. And anyone that can tell the story of their broken heart whilst cooking at least six courses to perfection is deserving of high praise.

He clearly has the recipe for a wonderful show, but does Iwan Dam have the recipe for love? I don´t know, but his recipe for Chicken Broth with Matzo Balls would probably have worked on me. Delicious.