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Dining Room Tales
Dinner and drama, right at your table

Jürgen Fritz performs "Cloth" as part of Dining Room Tales in Helsinki
Jürgen Fritz performs "Cloth" as part of Dining Room Tales in Helsinki | © Antti Ahonen

Theatre and a tasty meal is the perfect night out for many of us. At Xan Colman’s Dining Room Tales events you can combine the two. His latest show in the series features German performance artist Jürgen Fritz.

By André Leslie

Watching an internationally-renowned artist on stage is a great experience, but what if you could sit down to dinner with them, be part of the performance and share their most personal stories?
 
That’s the concept behind the Dining Room Tales project, conceived by Xan Colman, and soon to be performed with the help of Goethe-Institut in Melbourne and Sydney. 
 
Melbourne-based Colman, who thought up the original idea, said the inspiration came to him one day in his kitchen as he was preparing a meal.  
 
“I looked across at my empty dining room table and I suddenly had the thought ‘I could be in the middle of a performative conversation with guests right now if I wanted to be’,” he says. 
 
“I started thinking about what the opportunities would be for art in domestic spaces and how food is a vehicle for transmitting stories.”
 
Since the project’s formal beginnings in 2011, Colman has put on over 80 performances with nine different artists in seven countries. The first was with Iranian-Australian artist Neda Rahmani in Melbourne, before he took Dining Room Tales on the road across Australia and around the world. Dining Room Tales founder Xan Colman with pianist Yoshio Hamano in Yokohama Dining Room Tales founder Xan Colman with pianist Yoshio Hamano in Yokohama | © Taira Tairadate

Sitting in the artwork

This February, renowned performance artist Jürgen Fritz will be putting on a performance entitled “Cloth”, where participants will sit inside an artwork themselves, a giant tablecloth created by installation artist Christine Biehler. 
 
Similar to the other Dining Room Tales performances, personal stories will be shared while Fritz performs the artistic skills that come most naturally to him - and the audience will get involved too. 
 
“Jürgen’s event is all about action and experience and things connecting and colliding with each other in the moment, unplanned,” Colman says.
 
Fritz has already performed the show in Finland and his native Germany and says that the Dining Room Tales format is “more playful and fun” than regular theatre performances. 
 
“I have to be open to the suggestions coming from the audience, I can’t rely on a set runsheet,” Fritz says. “Every performance is different, depending on what the public brings to the table.” Participants in a Dining Room Tales performance in Helsinki Dig in: Food is a part of the show in all Dining Room Tales performances | © Antti Ahonen

Being human

Colman explains that despite the varied locations for the Dining Room Tales performances over the last few years the project has proven to him just how similar we all are.
 
“People wonder whether you get different responses in Japan, Germany, Brazil and Hong Kong -  while that’s true, we are also not different at all. There is a kind of different spectra that exist in every place.”
 
“On the one side there are people who are really introverted and on the other end there are people who are really adventurous, and there is all sorts of grey.”
 
For Colman, who has also been involved in some big productions in theatres around the world, the Dining Room Tales project is a chance to bring some “humanity” back into the arts.
 
“What I am trying to do with this practice is to create time and space for people to just be human with each other - with people that they don’t know and with ideas that they don’t yet know about or grasp.”
 
Jürgen Fritz will take part in four Dining Room Tales performances of “Cloth” in Melbourne and Sydney in February 2020. Places are strictly limited, bookings are essential.
 

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