It was a Friday night and, in true British fashion, the rain had not stopped. I was debating whether or not the show I needed to attend would be worth the inevitable soak to the bone. Two words, ladies and gentlemen: it was. A fiery phenomenon that was different to my expectations, Chopping Chillies is a performance by Clair Whitefield that you simply must see.
It tells the story of Ajna who, due to circumstances I do not wish to unveil, becomes a cobbler in London, leaving his beloved home of India behind. He befriends his neighbour Katie, who has travelled India and has opened up a soul food café to enrich the tastebuds of local Londoners. The two are intertwined through the geographical stamps imprinted on their skin. Ajna’s home is the inspiration for Katie’s cooking and each improvement suggested by Ajna sends him one step closer to returning to his vibrant home.
a poetic explosion of thought and feeling which explores the effects food can have on the body and soul
The story was absolutely beautiful, a poetic explosion of thought and feeling which explores the effects food can have on the body and soul. Memories can flow from different objects and sounds and food is no different. Whitefield’s tantalising tale dances on the tongue and creates a mouth watering performance where each and every member of the audience inhabited the Indian dishes which are so integral to both the characters’ memories. Contrasting this rambling review, I was honestly rendered speechless by the sheer power of the show and the way food can create such a mystical experience.
Although food was integral to the story, it was only part of a wider picture of what our lives are all about. Upon moving to London, Ajna observes people’s issues and, compared to his experiences, each one is trivial and easily fixed. The performance perpetuates the notion that sometimes a problem within your life can be addressed by your own actions; it is all about finding what makes you content and working from your current position to a new brighter one. To some, Chopping Chillies may ooze with sadness, but its over-riding message is unbelievably positive. Change is often charged with being an awkward, annoying figure, but this show screams that sometimes change is for the better and, quite frankly, I think that is amazing.
Whitefield’s tantalising tale dances on the tongue and creates a mouth watering performance
Such a magical story was only enhanced by Whitefield’s stellar performance. It is a one woman show but that doesn’t hinder the appearance of a troupe of wild characters. Each character naturally had their own persona, quirks, and traits and Whitefield embodied each of them with incredible voices and movements. The audience became enthralled in every image, sound and, to some extent, even taste. This was all created by a single individual standing barefoot in an empty room with minimal sound effects. This only demonstrates the ferocious power of words and how they can manipulate the human brain into a wonderful trance and transport each individual to a world far from a quayside venue in south west England. But it isn’t just the presence of words that makes this tale so extraordinary, it is the choice of words themselves. The story hosts an array of vivid phrases which sparkle throughout. It only shines brighter because of these words and again allows the audience to be fully immersed in a wonderfully exotic experience.
Overall, I cannot enthuse enough about this amazing performance. Clair Whitefield and director Guy Masterton have created a fantastic performance that anyone and everyone should go and see. It’s unique, engaging and honestly brilliant – I highly recommend it, especially if you are seeking something different to the typical show!