Skip to main content

Hunt and Darton Cafe - Take A Bite

Popping out for a cuppa can be full of surprises during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. At least it can down at Hunt and Darton Cafe, the pop-up cafe opened for thr entire month of August by live artist double act, Jenny Hunt and Holly Darton. Last year, the St Martin's College of Art graduates ran the place on St Mary's Street dressed in pineapple decorated outfits with a sense of style and wit that made it the ultimate drop-in centre.

Inside the cafe's vintage environment, our two hostesses and occasional guest waiting staff would serve basic but carefully prepared meals, snacks and drinks with a meticulous sense of customer care. Some days would be themed, with customers being asked to serve each other, or else asked if they would care to choose a record to play on an old Dansette. Each financial transaction would be carefully marked out on the wall in chalk alongside details of the outlay for supplies. At the end of the week, the total profit would also be marked up. In the evening spontaneous happenings would occur, with the entire month-long experience one non-stop performance co-ordinated by Hunt and Darton, with the customers playing key roles in the hands-on interactive experience.

This year, Hunt and Darton cafe has returned to the same empty shop, only with a new menu, new vegetable inspired outfits and an even fresher take on the participatory experience.

“It's evolved a lot since last year,” says Darton. “We've developed a lot of what we do in the cafe, and we have a lot of new things happening, like a health and safety day, and have a point of each day, such as austerity.”

“We'' be wearing brocolli this year as well,” Hunt chips in. “We've got these amazing brocolli print dresses we'll be wearing.”

Another addition to the Hunt and Darton Cafe programme is a set meal for a mere five poinds. These will be served on a silver trolley, after which “things happen,” as Hunt puts it.

The roots of Hunt and Darton Cafe came from a sense of pragmatism rather than pure desire.

“We've always had alternative careers in catering to fund our art,”Hunt explains, while Darton points out that “It developed organically. We were interested in the relationship between food and art, and also in trying to close the gap between audience and performer. When we do stage work there's always a distance, so we're developing trying to close the gap.”

“Every time we work together we understand it so much more, hunt continues, “so now it'ds becoming much more immersive, and much more about embracing the customer experience.”

All of which sounds akin to a twenty-first century equivalent of Gilbert and George's early living sculpture routines, only with bags more sass as well as artistic integrity. This is especially the case given that some of the guest artists who will perform in the cafe in the evenings include refugees from the Glasgow-based Buzzcut live art festival, as well as the likes of Arches and Forest Fringe regular, Richard DeDominici.

What if, however, a casual customer goes into the cafe and just wants a cuppa and a cake without any side order of live art and refuses to join in the fun?

“The majority of them are incredibly positive and do join in,” according to Hunt. “There are people who just want a cup of tea, and it's our job to try and negotiate that. We're not aggressive about it, but we are assertive.”

While in residence in St Mary's Street, Hunt and Darton will also be presenting a more formal show entitled Boredom. As the name suggests, the performance looks at the highs and lows of tedium in all its forms.

“It's the opposite to what we've been doing with the cafe,” says Darton. “We're performing it in a guerilla style, and it's taking us back onto a stage.”

While they won't be working as many hours as last year, Hunt and Darton will need to be 'on' for the entire day, tea-breaks permitting.

“We do fibnd ourselves doing a lot,” Darton admits, “We both really enjoy durational performances, and this year I think we're doing duration for duration's sake.”

Hunt puts it simpler.

“We're aldso workaholics,” she says.

Hunt and Darton Cafe, 17-21 St. Mary's Street (Venue 172), until August 25th, 10am-5pm; Boredom, August 3,6,8, 10, 13, 15, 17, 20, 22, 24, 10.30pm.

The Herald, August 20th 2013


ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

In a monumental shipping container down by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.

Inbetween, there’s a confession booth and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or else finding comfort in being together. Opp…

Scot:Lands 2017

Edinburgh's Hogmanay
Four stars

A sense of place is everything in Scot:Lands. Half the experience of Edinburgh's Hogmanay's now annual tour of the country's diverse array of cultures seen over nine bespoke stages in one global village is the physical journey itself. Scot:Lands too is about how that sense of place interacts with the people who are inspired inspired by that place.

So it was in Nether:Land, where you could see the day in at the Scottish Storytelling Centre with a mixed bag of traditional storytellers and contemporary performance poets such as Jenny Lindsay. The queues beside the Centre's cafe were further enlivened by the gentlest of ceilidhs was ushered in by Mairi Campbell and her band.

For Wig:Land, the grandiloquence of the little seen Signet Library in Parliament Square was transformed into a mini version of the Wigtown Book Festival. While upstairs provided a pop-up performance space where writers including Jessica Fox and Debi Gliori read eithe…

Nomanslanding

Tramway, Glasgow until July 2nd
Four stars

In the dead of night, the audience are split in two and led under-cover into lamp-lit tented structures. Inside, what look like peasant women on the run lead us down a ramp and into a large circular pod. It feels part cathedral, part space-ship, and to come blinking into the light of such a fantastical structure after stumbling in the dark disorientates and overwhelms. Sat around the pod as if awaiting prayers to begin, we watch as performers Nerea Bello and Judith Williams incant mournfully on either side of the room. Their keening chorales embark on a voyage of their own, twisting around each other by way of the international language of singing. As if in sympathy, the walls wail and whisper, before starting to move as those on either side of the pod are left stranded, a gulf between them.

This international co-commission between Glasgow Life and the Merchant City Festival, Sydney Harbour Foreshaw Authority in Australia and Urbane Kienste …