“It is for keeping warm, and it is for getting together.”

The Midnight Soup is an invitation for strangers to create a time-limited community within the midst of the hustle and bustle of the Fringe Festival. It is written and performed by Leo Burtin and devised in collaboration with Mark Whitelaw, who also directs the production.

This intimate show is not only a performance, but also a personal experience for the audience to participate in something together. The Midnight Soup is a space to step out of the tracking of time and the isolating performance hunt during the Fringe. Burtin’s simply constructed immersive experience is about sharing a meal together. During its preparation and final consumption, his monologue opens a conversation between strangers.

After we enter, we are greeted with kind words on paper, later in person by Burtin. We sit down in front of our name tags and smile at the people around us. Eating rules are set up which possibly remind us of our family eating rituals. Even though Burtin positions himself as a patriarch – the head of the table – he lives in a democracy and opens the forum to create, devise and undermine his rules. He gives us tasks and the freedom to devise the dinner experience together. We cut vegetables together, we share bread and butter and we sit in silence. It is our own choice to observe and witness; or to participate by sharing thoughts and stories in order to contribute to this incredibly sensitive community session.

Burtin tells us about his grandmother who decided to take her own life in 2012. The Midnight Soup is an act of remembrance in her name. She kept a personal diary throughout her years and we join Burtin to revive the year 2006. He reads from her diary, which lacks personal impressions and is devoid of much emotion, but is instead filled with a testimony of her daily life, of her being alive, and examples of her meticulousness in documenting banal facts of her everyday life. The cooking session of The Midnight Soup is about loss and vanishing memories, but it is much more about celebrating the present time and the moments that have shaped our story. Time halts in this show and allows you to reflect on your own or together with the group.

Without force or obligation, Burtin inspires thoughts and conversation. Nevertheless, he could initiate a few more icebreakers or guide the conversation more often when a silence befalls the atmosphere. If Burtin were to share more personal memories, he may spark more personal sharing from the audience. Otherwise, awkward silences are as much part of the experience as an outspoken togetherness and thus, works to stress the role of the audience as active participator.

The Midnight Soup is different every night as it grasps the atmosphere of a group of strangers cooking and dining together. It is a calm, relaxing space to reflect and to share. Burtin’s Midnight Soup creates a sanctuary and welcomes everyone to be part of this immersive encounter about losing, being and becoming a family.

The Midnight Soup is playing at Summerhall as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival until 26 August. For more information and tickets, please click here.

Photo: Making Room