Jovanni Sy’s A Taste of Empire explores the human toll of our global pantry.
Jovanni Sy’s A Taste of Empire explores the human toll of our global pantry.

For a city seemingly obsessed with food, A Taste of Empire will appeal to more than just Vancouver theatre-goers as it attempts to humanize the cost of being able to “eat the world”.

[pullquote]There is a satisfying aftertaste that is both sweet and sour that lingers after digesting A Taste of Empire and it just might have you rethinking your next trip to the market.[/pullquote]It only takes a short walk down supermarket’s aisles to see where we stock our world pantries. Grapes from Chile, oranges from Florida, coffee from Colombia, bananas from the Philippines; the list is seemingly endless. And as playwright and performer Jovanni Sy soon tells us, even when we think we’re getting something closer to home with a package that proudly announces it is a “Product of Canada”, what’s inside may not have been harvested from inside our borders.

Through history our demands for an endless variety of low-cost foods has taken its toll, on both our natural resources and on the world’s population. In Sy’s A Taste of Empire, the human toll is explored using a traditional Filipino fish recipe, rellenong bangus, as a clever metaphor for the colonization of his birth country. Not content to stick close to the origins of his milkfish however, Sy expands his exploration of our global appetites as he continues to prepare the meal.

A Taste of Empire is at its best as a sort-of live-action documentary, full of facts that are at their most powerful when they are made personal. It does lose some of its power as Sy wraps everything inside the cheesy world of Chef Maximo Cortes and some of the connections that he attempts to make are very subtle.

Unlike a documentary film though, at the end of the evening audiences have an opportunity to taste the finished dish. As a vegetarian I passed on a sample, but couldn’t help but wonder if in knowing the name of the fish it made a difference to those that ate it.

There is a satisfying aftertaste that is both sweet and sour that lingers after digesting A Taste of Empire and it just might have you rethinking your next trip to the market.

A Taste of Empire.  Written and performed by Jovanni Sy.  Original production directed by Guillermo Vewrdecchica.  Presented by Boca del Lupo’s Micro Performance Series and the Richmond Arts Centre.  On stage in the courtyard of Granville Island through May 25.  Visit http://bocadellupo.com for tickets and information. 

The show moves to the Richmond Arts Centre for performances May 31 – June 1.