“THE SERPENT’S TABLE
January 26 Until January 27
In Vietnamese culture, Pauline Nguyen says, the things that are hardest to say can sometimes be expressed with food.
As she relates the intensely personal and still raw story of her relationship with her father, the bitterness she feels is incorporated into – and offset by – her canh kho qua, a “reconciliation soup” of bitter melon rings sweetened with chicken broth, ground pork and shallots.
Calmly preparing it in front of us, Nguyen – author and co-owner of the acclaimed Red Lantern restaurant in Surry Hills – describes her family’s risk-all journey by boat from postwar Vietnam and her father’s struggles to keep the family economically afloat. She tells of his rages and anger; using her kitchen knife to dramatic effect, she describes the beatings he would hand out for poor test results.
And as she describes the scene in which father and daughter are in some way reconciled, we taste the soup. Ceramic spoons clatter against dishes, creating an improvised soundtrack. Some in the audience openly weep.
Nguyen’s story is the first course of a feast of memory and reflection brought to The Serpent’s Table, a co-production between Griffin Theatre and Performance 4a that will hopefully have another life after its short debut season in the Sydney Festival…”
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