A taste of what’s to come from a collaboration between Leeds and Kuala Lumpur for LEEDS 2023

Leeds based Knaïve Theatre has been working with Kuala Lumpur theatre company KL Shakespeare Players to develop a theatre project for the LEEDS 2023 Year of Culture about bringing people together through food. Tyrrell Jones and Sam Redway from Knaïve Theatre with Lim Soon Heng and Lim Kien Lee, KL Players, talk here together about their collaboration.

By Tyrrell Jones & Soon Heng Lim
Saturday, 8th January 2022, 11:45 am

When we all first met virtually to talk about pitching a performance piece to LEEDS 2023 to be part of the ‘The World in Our City, the City in Our World’ commissions, there were instant creative sparks, even though those of us based in Kuala Lumpur - Soon Heng and Kien Lee - knew almost nothing about Leeds.

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We were introduced to each other by mutual contacts as potential collaborators and when we met online there was instant chemistry; we had no idea what we were going to do and how, but we immediately wanted to work together.

Only a couple of years ago the idea of collaborating so closely on a project with people you’d never even met before would have seemed impossible, but the world feels a smaller place than it used to and one thing we can all say about the pandemic is that it’s opened up real opportunities to collaborate virtually that wouldn’t have been considered before.

Working and meeting online, without the limitations of a physical space, using tools that have become part of our everyday lives like Zoom and Google docs, allowed us to share ideas. Even the 7 or 8 hour time difference was in our favour as we when one person finished, others were just starting!

Our pitch for the ‘The World in Our City, the City in Our World’ took Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’ as a starting point. Obviously, KL Shakespeare Players focus on works by the Bard so with Knaïve Theatre being a more political, immersive company it felt like a really exciting collaboration. We’ve taken themes found in the play – prejudice, clashing cultures, conflicting ideas, friendship, and forgiveness and explored them in relation to the restaurant industry.

Restaurants are meeting places, social hubs in communities and they also often introduce others to that culture. We learn about the people and the culture of a place through its food, and we discover the differences and similarities between us as we share food with others.

We [Sam and Tyrrell] know that Leeds is such a great place for food, there are so many different cuisines representing the diversity of the city. Restaurants are places we all come together and connect; where we create memories and find new loves. We go there with friends and with family, for work or just to have that one dish that never tastes the same at home.

For LEEDS 2023 we hope we’ll get to take our ideas further and create something that will engage new audiences, sharing ideas of cultural identity through a culinary adventure.

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