Actor Annie Louise Ross sits at her kitchen table in a cosy kitchen with photos, mementos and cooking paraphernalia across the walls and counters. The familiar recipe folder sits in front of her, that book that accompanies anyone over the age of 35 that documents years of family recipes and those copied out of recipe books that have since been donated to the local charity shops. A lifetime of food sits within its dividers. It’s “Lentil Soup Day” she says. Flicking slowly to her page she reads off the list of simple and hearty ingredients, these fill the air and our senses. I already imagine the warmth of the bowl in my hands and the comfort of the nourishment for stomach and soul.
Ross walks to her counter ready to prepare her food. As she walks slowly away, the audience see her reflected in the mirror on the wall – this is a really beautiful softly focused shot. I feel like we see her how she sees herself in this reflection. Simple moments are captured in this digital film that reflect the mundanity of the everyday, but the beauty that comes with this.
This piece is a monologue to herself, but as a young viewer I feel like a grandchild spending time waiting for my beloved Grandmother to cook a much-loved family recipe that Grandad always used to cook. Commenting on the roles of women in times past, Ross talks of the women who “sweated by the stove” and the times when neighbours would come to share in the offerings of the kitchen. Connection with neighbours in the modern day seems foreign, especially in the bubbles of cities.
Ross yearns for the connection that we feel over good food and the “bons amis” we make whilst sharing in the experience of nourishing our bodies. She speaks of the flavours of the recipe that her lost partner once made – “freestyle” cooking cannot be easily replicated and this speaks to a life that is no longer present.
Whilst only 10 minutes in length, I feel, through Ross’s intense vulnerability, a deep connection to her character and want to sweep her up into an all-encompassing hug. Thankfully our glimpse into her life ends with the promise of contact with neighbours as this sweet, strong, but anguished woman needs company.
This piece speaks of the transporting power of food to moments in our lives, to memories of people current and past. A truly beautiful vignette of loneliness, nostalgia and widowhood.
A Soup Song is a part of the National Theatre of Scotland’s Scenes for Survival. For more information and to stream, visit the National Theatre of Scotland website.