‘Only Wolves and Lions’ (Summerhall; 12, 14-15 Sept ’13)

“From this melting pot, hopefully, will be drawn a social bond that will spark conversation when we finally sit back down to eat.”

Editorial Rating: Nae Bad

Only Lions and Wolves is a collaboration between British artist Leo Kay and his Basque collaborator Unai Lopez de Armentia. Their aim is to bring together a group of total strangers to select, cook and consume a menu of dishes made from an array of raw ingredients brought by us.

The dining table is set for an extended family banquet. Gas camping hobs have been set up  along the hall’s sides. At one end is a table of carbs (rice, flour etc) and condiments such as tinned tomatoes, olive oil et al. At the other end are the cooking pots, utensils and cutlery which we will use to prepare our dishes. A washing line runs behind this table hung with ladles and potato mashers and above it hangs a chandelier of colanders. We sit and, under Kay’s direction, introduce ourselves. The ice is melted with a free form dance warm up as well as bonobo impressions – bonobos and chimps are social creatures too runs the logic.

We team up and are asked to suggest possible dishes within our culinary range and the options available. Then we cook against a clock set for 45 minutes. From this melting pot, hopefully, will be drawn a social bond that will spark conversation when we finally sit back down to eat.

The frame may be hippy-dippy collectivist, but the content of Lions and Wolves feels a lot like the team building exercises, networking events and other assorted workshops strewn throughout corporate life. I am reminded why I’d never want to live in a commune. When Kay and de Armentia start talking Trotsky I regret there isn’t an ice pick on the washing line. It’s a shame that the meal is not billed as vegetarian – for an event aimed at deconstructing social barriers the line between herbivores and carnivores is jarring.

Discussing politics at the dinner table and in mixed company does not come easily. The work is much stronger, pacier too, when outlining broader philosophical lessons from thinkers such as Epicurus and how these might be applied topically to alleviate the symptoms of downturn and recession.

Only Lions and Wolves is a conceptual work in progress. Edinburgh has a well established dining club scene into which this format (if not the current means of execution) could easily fit. An ambitious yet inventive concept, it could hold better selected material, but what tailoring there is, is neat, stylish and bold. When they loosen up, the performers are a lovely bromantic couple in whose company it is a pleasure to spend an evening.

nae bad_blue

Reviewer: Dan Lentell (Seen 12 September)

Visit Only Wolves and Lions homepage here.