Food for thought as bite-sized theatre is on the menu in a Taste Of SLAP at York Theatre Royal

Messy Eaters: on the menu at Taste Of SLAP at York Theatre Royal

TWO reasons lie behind the title of Taste Of SLAP, the “alternative Valentine’s Day treat” at York Theatre Royal tomorrow.

Organised by SLAP founders and co-directors Lydia Cottrell and Sophie Unwin, the last SLAP festival in 2019 ran for four days. This one, by contrast, is more concentrated: one day and evening’s tasty assortment of pay-what-you-can theatre and performance in different locations in the Theatre Royal.

Bite sized, in other words, and bite is apposite for the second reason. Taste Of SLAP’s day of cabaret, theatre, dinner dating, tea drinking, canape art and more besides takes the theme of food. Even a participating company carries the name of Teastain Theatre.

“After last year’s festival, the idea was to have a year off and then do the festival every two years,” says Lydia. “But that’s not the case now, as we believe it’s better to have a presence each year, so we’re doing a day of events at various locations, ending with the return of the DryHump Queer Cabaret.”

Sophie says: “The idea is to have a taster menu of everything you would have in a four-day SLAP festival. Everything has the theme of food, what with it being held the day after Valentine’s Day and coinciding with the musical Oliver! [Food Glorious Food et al] in the main house!”

Levantes Dance Theatre’s Canape Art

Lydia rejoins: “It’s always a dream to have something for everyone at our SLAP events but I really believe we have this time: some that are family friendly and some that are very definitely not.”

Should you be wondering what the acronym SLAP stands for, the answer is Social Live Art Performance. “As a company our aim is to create a fun and supportive environment for audiences to experience live performance,” says Lydia.

“It is part of the SLAP ethos that everyone that comes to SLAP is treated equally in the belief that everyone has the right to experience art, no matter their background.”

Sophie adds: “SLAP are passionate about supporting local talent, as well as bringing international artists to the city. This year, we’ve collaborated with Drama Soc at the University of York to commission a brand new play, the quirky, rhyming Messy Eaters, written by student Aisling Lally that will be performed by York company Teastain Theatre.

“It’s directed by Jesse Roberts, who is a past artistic director of the Theatre Royal’s TakeOverFestival, and I reckon that Aisling, who’s an English Literature student, is definitely the next big thing.

“We’re also programming York St John University graduate Siara Illing Ahmed with her work I Am Mixed, where she’ll be feeding you food from her British, Pakistani and Irish background, telling the story of her life through food and discussing her heritage as an empowered woman.

Binaural Dinner Date: finding the “perfect date”

“We also have York puppeteer Freddie Does Puppets – Freddie Hayes – presenting her new show in her Mrs Potatohead costume as part of the cabaret event Dry Hump, with Fred serving Buckfast as everyone arrives.”

Access is at the heart of SLAP too, the organisers always using venues that have flat or ramped access from the street, elevators and accessible bathrooms. “We also believe income should not be a barrier to accessing performance and that’s why we’ve made all events as part of the festival either free or pay-what-you-can,” says Lydia.

“Being artist led, our main aims are to provide a supportive environment for artists to create new work. Our main aim for audiences is for them to experience new contemporary performance in an accessible and non-exclusionary way.

“A big part of the ethos is that art is for everyone and we want everyone to feel welcome during all of our events. We’ve worked very hard to ensure that SLAP provides a safe environment and is a great opportunity to experience live art for the first time.”

Sophie says: “Taste of SLAP involves eclectic performances from artists working all over the country and beyond. We’re really excited to have the opportunity to programme such a variety of celebrated artists, most of whom have never performed here in York.

“We continue to offer an alternative to the City of York’s cultural offering while also ensuring there’s something in the programme for everyone. From family-friendly performance, intimate experiences to conversations and cabaret.”

Siara Illing Ahmed in I Am Mixed

Taste Of SLAP performance menu for Saturday, February 15

Tea & Tolerance, Café, 3pm to 6pm; free.

A roaming tea trolley delivers piping hot topics, not tea, and dishes out dialogue rather than digestives, with a board game involving the topics being rolled up inside the tea pots to facilitate conversations.

This show by a Leeds company was inspired by the York Mosque inviting the English Defence League in for a cup of tea and a chat.

I Am Mixed, Keregan Room, 3pm and 5pm; booking required.

A ‘Cefil’, a mixture of Celtic Ceilidh and Indian Mafill, is presented by Siara Illing Ahmed in an intimate storytelling experience. This autobiographical performance details the experience of growing up “mixed race” in Bradford.

Levantes Dance Theatre’s Canape Art, Café, 4pm and 6pm; free.

Dressed to impress, Levantes Dance Theatre’s delightful duo serve up a glittery and unexpected twist on hors d’oeuvres, creating beautiful, unique edible tattoos on the hands, arms and faces with everyone they come across. Suitable for everyone from curious adults to inquisitive tots.

Tea & Tolerance: board games leading to conversations

Binaural Dinner Date, Café, 3pm, 5pm and 7.45pm. Booking required.

Co-ordinated by the Brazilian-London partnership of ZU-UK, this is a post-Valentine’s Day alternative chance to find romance as a voice in your ear – courtesy of headphones – guides you through the perfect date. Come with your own date, or we can find one for you.

Messy Eaters, Studio, 7pm, sold out.

Everyone’s making a mess. Newlyweds Charles and Mabel spend Christmas with the in-laws, God, and a deadly secret. Shirley and Kevin reach boiling point, while stressed student Emma gains a keen tea guest who forgets his table manners.

Meanwhile, Ryan just doesn’t understand how girlfriend Abby likes her eggs in the morning. With five interlinking short plays on the menu, Messy Eaters is jam packed with current, juicy chaos.

DryHump, De Grey Rooms, 8pm. Booking required.

A sumptuous feast of Queer Cabaret delights, with small plates of performance, porky party games and delicious dancing. Freddie Does Puppets, Rich Tea and Rocky Road and DJ Nik Nak all feature.

SLAP’s ticket policy: Taste Of Slap’s ticket brackets are £3, £6, £9 and £12. Choose the amount you would like to pay.

“We will never ask you to prove your financial situation; just pick the amount that feels best for you. If you would like to know more about any of the events, please email info@slapyork.co.uk,” say the organisers.

DryHump Queer Cabaret: the finale to Taste Of SLAP

Tickets are on sale at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk, on 01904 623568 or in person at the Theatre Royal box office.

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