Cahoots Theatre has beautifully transformed the BMO Incubator at The Theatre Centre for their current production of Amanda Lin’s Between a Wok and a Hot Pot directed by Esther Jun. Lin’s work is poignant exploration of embracing the fullness of one’s identity in a world where “diversity” can be a loaded and ever-changing term. With a deliciously fun option to partake in a meal of Hot Pot during the performance, Between a Wok and a Hot Pot is a unique dinner-theatre experience you don’t want to miss!
The layout of the theatre works perfectly for this production: the lower section is used for the tables where you can eat Hot Pot and where the main action/demonstration takes place. The show only seats are around the upper part of the theatre with a perfect view of the action below. The ceiling is decorated with beautiful red lanterns and the walls are covered in movie and KPop posters, and before the show there are little trivia facts and hilariously photoshopped images to keep the audience intrigued as they wait for the show to begin. Between a Wok and a Hot Pot is brilliantly self-aware, in both the content and the set design, playing off of our pre-conceived notions of Asian culture and what it means to “be Asian.”
This gets straight to the heart of Between a Wok and a Hot Pot, as Mandy, played by Amanda Lin, and her Production Manager, played by Kenzie Tsang, have very different opinions about what it means to embrace their heritage and how the systems they’re working within, in the arts community and in society at large, are attempting to do the same. I really enjoyed the part where Mandy talks about never knowing if you received or didn’t receive a part purely because of where you’re from, and not necessarily your talent or if you’d fit the role; this is a disappointing reality for so many people. Yet in its self-awareness there were also several comical moments: I loved that Kikkoman was one of the ‘sponsors’ of the show (that jingle has been stuck in my head ever since). I also thought that the Guess That Asian game was too funny, and Mandy is very correct that I would not have known some of those actors had I been asked 10 years ago. The writing of this show is very tongue-in-cheek, and that’s the basis for a lot of the comedy, but also a lot of learning for the audience.
Then comes the Hot Pot meal itself. Having only had Hot Pot once before, I was very thankful for the well paced and very involved crash course. The instructions on the table were so helpful and Mandy did a wonderful job explaining not only what to do but why and variations to make sure that we all had an enjoyable experience. My hat goes off to the incredible team who works tirelessly to make this happen every day. There are twenty food tickets available per show, and a choice of Meat or Vegetable, and they have to get all of the ingredients ready for all six tables for each show. To do all of this on an Indie Theatre budget is mind-blowing to me. I also really appreciated that the folks who had food tickets had to take rapid tests before the show, and only received their tickets once the all-clear had been given; it makes it a safe, relaxing experience for everyone involved. The food was delicious and I enjoyed getting to talk to my table-mates and navigate the experience together; as Mandy says in the play, Hot Pot is all about the community aspect.
If you’re looking for something to warm your stomach and your heart on these dreary winter days, check out Between a Wok and a Hot Pot. Mandy’s final message at the end of the play about Canada being like a Hot Pot really struck a chord with me, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to add my ingredients into the pot. For more information and tickets, visit: Productions | Cahoots Theatre