Acts of communion: encountering taste in Reckless Sleeper's The Last Supper

Westerside, Andrew and Pinchbeck, Michael (2017) Acts of communion: encountering taste in Reckless Sleeper's The Last Supper. Performance Research, 22 (3). pp. 44-53. ISSN 1352-8615

Acts of Communion: Encountering taste in Reckless Sleeper's The Last Supper

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This article explores the aesthetics, politics and dramaturgy of taste implicit in Reckless Sleepers' The Last Supper (2003). Seated at three long tables, set for dinner, the audience are served the last meal requests of inmates on death row whilst the company perform the last words of the famous or infamous, printed on rice paper, which they then eat. The piece explores both gustatory taste and the multi-sensory potential of serving food in performance and the ethics and politics of (mis)representation of real life events; the assassination of the Romanovs and Che Guevara proving to be the most unreliable narratives. The text sits between fact and fiction, the found and the fabricated, and is punctuated with the arrival of the real last suppers of convicted felons. The work speaks from a primarily western religious perspective, inspired by Da Vinci's Last Supper (1498) and the act of communion that takes place in church services. In this way it leans towards an occidental, spiritual notion of taste, where transubstantiation allows the rice paper script to become both the body of Christ and the symbol of his own last supper. Nietzsche's notion of intoxication too comes into play as performers and audience share wine, or blood, and raise a drink to their absent friends. The last words of the piece are ‘Goodnight sweethearts’, the last words of Noel Coward.

Both authors of this paper wrote about this piece when they first saw it at the same venue in 2006, both conducted interviews with members of the company, Mole Wetherell and Tim Ingram, for their postgraduate research, exploring absence and presence, aesthetics and taste in contemporary performance. They now seek to revisit their reading of the work as it continues to tour nationally and internationally. They draw on their own first-hand experiences of the piece, their encounter with Da Vinci's painting in Milan and their interviews. They also read the work in the context of the new wave of immersive theatre and how it has evolved in its 13 years of touring and yet the text and meals remain the same. This article proposes that the piece enacts a dramaturgy much like a meal, where conversation ebbs and flows, and a sense of togetherness, or act of communion, is engendered through two encounters – the dramaturgical and the aesthetic. Act One stems from Michael Pinchbeck’s research into Acts of Dramaturgy and takes a dramaturgical lens to the performance.[{note}]1 Act Two derives from Andrew Westerside’s research into taste and aesthetics in performance. We aim for the two acts to be both separate but in dialogue, much like two courses of a meal.

Keywords:Theatre, performance, Theatre studies, Aesthetics
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W440 Theatre studies
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Fine Arts)
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ID Code:30405
Deposited On:07 Mar 2018 16:24

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