Dinner theatre on the menu

Elizabeth Lazan and Brendon Fernandez in Mind Map Of Love.
Elizabeth Lazan and Brendon Fernandez in Mind Map Of Love.PHOTO: CRISPI PRODUCTIONS

Two pairs of actors put on a play as diners tuck into a three-course meal

In the narrow space of an Amoy Street shophouse, a couple prowls around you, falling in love and hurtling headlong into all its complications - at your command.

Skinned Knee Productions' latest show, Mind Map Of Love, a dinner theatre performance housed in Zott's True Alps, puts a heady mix of food and fate on the table.

A whirlwind romance in Turkey sets the ball rolling for the lovers - but from this point, the audience has a hand in what comes next, even as diners tuck into a gourmet three-course meal.

Jealousy or infidelity? Hatred or depression? Diners can have their say at select points, choosing from cards offered to them by the actors to define the couple's relationship.

Mind Map Of Love, directed by Rayann Condy and written by Marcia Vanderstraaten, is based on the book of the same name by German Christian Zott, the man behind Zott's True Alps. It will run today and tomorrow, and then from Wednesday to Nov 14.

  • BOOK IT/MIND MAP OF LOVE

  • WHERE: Zott's True Alps, 97 Amoy Street

    WHEN: Today and tomorrow, Wednesday to Nov 14, 8pm

    ADMISSION: $160 (excludes booking fee of $6.70, includes a three-course meal)

    INFO: www.skinnedkneeproductions.com

The show stars Brendon Fernandez, Elizabeth Lazan, Amanda Tee and Rosemary McGowan, who will pair off for the show. One pair will perform on the ground floor of the two-storey restaurant, and the other pair on the second floor.

Lazan, 31, tells Life: "I was really excited when I heard about the script. I've never done anything like this and my mum used to read me these choose-your-own adventure stories as a kid.

"Of course, it translates into a lot of work. We memorised lines for all the different variations. But every night is going to be something new and different for us."

Juggling the audience's choices makes it a feat to ensure continuity throughout, says Vanderstraaten, 32, whose tightly written script is run through with moments of unexpected hilarity - a bite on the bottom, for instance, makes said bottom an unwitting star and kick-starts an avalanche of events.

"It is all these separate threads and plots we have to keep track of. We have to make sure that whatever happens in earlier scenes are picked up on and continued," she explains.

At its heart, the show is an exercise in choreography. The whole experience has to feel integrated, says Condy, 34.

"What we set out to do is to give the audience a cohesive experience. We want to weave the entire evening in a way that gives them breaks to enjoy the food and help them focus on the show when it's playing out," she explains.

"Sometimes, in dinner theatre, the dinner and the theatre are not connected at all. Which makes for an awkward evening out when you can't really enjoy the food and can't really concentrate on the show."

One of her interests is taking theatre out of traditional spaces.

"I'm particularly interested in giving audiences a multi-sensory experience - where they can eat, drink, smell. It's almost harking back to the ancient Greeks," she says.

Performing on the ground floor for the show's opening night on Wednesday, Lazan and Fernandez were magnetic - larger than life and achingly intimate all at once in their portrayal of a couple caught in the turmoil of love.

Perching on chairs amid the audience, slumped in the stairwell and pacing the narrow hallway, gaze locking onto the audience with single-minded focus, they mastered the odd space.

"Working in a non-conventional space like this is definitely going to create a distinct world for the performers and audience," says Lazan.

"It's a little otherworldly because we can feed off the audience's presence and energy. Them dining and sharing the space with us, us working around them and watching them. It's a two-way stage in a sense."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 06, 2015, with the headline 'Dinner theatre on the menu'. Print Edition | Subscribe