Freie Universität Berlin

Lunch Replay

by Mohamad Al Halabi, Katharina Langels, Tina Rabus, Sara Schwartz

What does it mean to have lunch? Is the focus on the food? On the people eating? Is it an excuse to meet up and chat? How are social bounds forged and tied? Is the lunch a performance where the eaters need to act and behave a certain way to fit into the idea of a lunch? And how can the barrier between performers and bystanders/audience be lifted so that they feel welcomed to join in as well? The performers can interact with the audience and thus build a connection with them. At the same time, it is also an invitation to the audience to join in the performance. This can be achieved by offering food or by engaging audience members in conversation. The performers can also pose questions to the audience.

Looking at the lunch as a social gathering, we tried to explore the limits of what is possible, how our actions might be regulated by societal norms and how we can perform this during our lunch. We wanted to show, contrary to Anna Halprin’s Lunch performance, how a friendly lunch, taken out of the business context, can portray our daily lives as theatre. That intentional non-performative gestures can be performative at the same time, when the focus is exactly on that. We wanted to examine and show the lines of what is real and what is fake.

We agreed on doing a photo story which can document our performance. The production of photographs is part of the score. The camera is passed back and forth among the dancers. In this way, the habitualized movements are broken up and moments of artificiality are created. Through this, the difference between ordinariness and theatricality becomes clear. In addition, the process of taking photographs stimulates the dancers’ creativity. In this way, situations arise in which, for example, all the actors reach for a strawberry. For the lunch we decided that each of us should bring whatever food he or she likes. A public space in the garden of a student accommodation was chosen as the place for the performance. To make the lunch appear as relaxed as possible, casual clothing was agreed on. Apart from the camera equipment, a table, a table cloth, cutlery and dishes were needed and provided.

The first score was:

  • Once the food is prepared on the table, the performance of the score should start
  • The period of the performance starts from the beginning of eating until finishing the whole food on the table.
  • Invite bystanders to join the lunch, however, do not explain anything to them
  • No fixed or synced choreography. No specific movement standards or style are required.
  • • During the performance, the movements are performed intuitively and in tune with the situation at hand.

Impressions of our performance:

The pictures that were taken show a tryout of the performance. It is not the finished product as we could not act out the performance as we intended to, since we couldn’t invite other people due to COVID-regulations. However, the tone and the atmosphere that arose during the lunch was as we intended and desired it to be.

First valuaction of the group one day after our performance:

After the performance we gathered for an evaluation and looked at how we could improve the performance and the score for future performances. We agreed on that what is needed the most is an audience, that on the one hand increases the performative aspect for us but also gives us the chance to interact with and invite people to our lunch.
We need to make the score accessible for everyone, to make it more transmittable.
We felt that we successfully transgressed and blurred the lines between real and fake, between our daily lives and the performance.

One thing that is important and that shouldn’t get lost during the process and the performance is that this was not just a casual lunch. It was our interpretation of a lunch, which was taken out of its initial context and put into a different one. For the next performance, we felt that we needed more rules and more ‚extreme‘ circumstances and surroundings in order to really put the lunch in a performative scene.

Valuaction of our lunch

Following the first trial performance of the initial score, we came together again as a group to re-evaluate the lunch that we had experienced. During this phase, it became clear that changes would be made to expand the score and go further with it. Due to the everyday setting and unaltered movement quality, the performative aspect became nearly invisible to the outside eye; Therefore, a stronger transformation needed to be made in order to clearly separate the performance from the daily life. What restraints can be added to make the execution of our actions more challenging? How can we use the space to our advantage and change the physicality of our movements? We began adding new elements to the score and implementing additional rules that would simultaneously restrain the usual eating patterns and initiate new movement. After sharing ideas, these are the instructions we gathered for the next performance of the lunch score:

  • Cutlery is to be used only the wrong way round
  • Consume the food only from the plates that are not right in front of you, reach for the ones that are far away
  • Every time you take food from a plate, exchange it with another one
  • When you are reaching for food, move in slow motion and focus on the food you are about to eat
  • Complete all actions that do not take place seated at the table in a fast tempo (setting and leaving the table)
  • When you feel disconnected from the group, raise your glass and make a toast; decide spontaneously what to say and improvise during your speech

Our Score for following performances:

In addition to these new rules, we propose another change regarding the location of the performance. To shift further from reality, the lunch should be taken out of its everyday setting and repositioned in an unusual location. Places that are in transition or in motion themselves offer a great contrast to the conventional lunch table, so for future performances we propose setting up the lunch in moving public spaces, such as on a bus, at a train station, on a crossroad, or at an airport. These alternative spaces enrich the performance of the lunch score with additional challenging layers.

We believe that these changes and additional elements will allow the performers to immerse themselves more fully in the performance, by being confronted with a multitude of restraints and challenging surroundings. Besides that, people passing by the scene of the performance should be able to recognise it as such. The next steps in our process would be to reperform the altered score including the new additions, and subsequently re-evaluate our experience to further develop our interpretation of the lunch score inspired by Anna Halprin.

How it could be:

The following photo montages show how our new score could be performed in a public space without corona restrictions.

Lunch replay on a street
Lunch on a busy square

Performance Programme for the Future

  • 03/07/2021 at 12:00: Brandenburger Tor
  • 24/07/2021 at 15:30: Alexanderplatz
  • 16/04/2022 at 17:00: Traffic light at Straße des 17. Juni
  • 01/09/2022 at 08:00: Berlin Central Station
  • 14/02/2023 at 02:00: Berlin Airport
  • 28/11/2026 at 20:15: Shopping Mall
  • 04/12/2027 at 07:30: Heidelberger Platz Ubahn Station
  • 15/08/2032 at 13:00: Tiergarten

Building upon Anna Halprin’s score of Lunch from 1968, our intention was to feel the traces that Halprin’s performance had left and to reenact it in our own ways and understanding of lunch.