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Domestic & International touring through 2017 - please email for availabiliit

Clair Whitefield in Chopping Chillies (image: Christa Holka)
Theatre Tours International presents


Written & Perfomed by Clair Whitefield
Directed by Guy Masterson
A hit at Edinburgh 2016: From Kerala to Camden, an epic, mystical tale of love, loss and soul-food.
A cobbler and a cook concoct a delicious transcontinental enchantment as tragedy and chance entwine. Katie dreams of curries and chapattis; Ajna, of holy souls and reincarnation... A delightful, poetic, magical yarn that conjoins the spirit of India with the heart of London.
Directed by Olivier Award winner (for 'Morecambe') Guy Masterson.
"An extraordinary, humbling story of love, family, loss, grief, new beginnings and unexpected friendships. A delicious, appetising, spicy feast of a show!" (EdinburghGude, 2016)
"the imprint lasts long after the performance ends." (Three Weeks, 2016)


THE LIST 01/09/16
Claire Whitefield's Chopping Chilies first appeared in 2015's Free Fringe: now under the direction of Guy Masterson, the play has added new levels of theatricality with lighting, sound effects and music. Yet the heart of the play remains Whitefield's charming performance and well-crafted script.
A martial artist, suffering grief at the loss of his family in a tragic accident, inherits a shoe repair shop, moves overseas and uses his knowledge of the body's pressure points to alter his customer's footwear, posture, confidence and ultimately their lives. Powerless to repair his own life, he finds himself challenged only when a young, dreadlocked hipster opens up a cafe next door, and begins making food that reminds him of his lost family and the country he left behind.
The play features stories within stories, and a variety of colourful characters who speak in verse, a nod to Whitefield's background in poetry. The plot is fast moving, with a dense layer of foreshadowing and symmetry but the simple premise sweeps up the audience with its charm.
Perhaps its most intriguing point is the refusal to become a stereotypical love story, ignoring romance in favour of exploring ideas about neighbours and friendship. It also looks at how the things people create influence those that come into contact with them. Leaving the theatre after Whitefield's energetic performance, you may find yourself looking at your own shoes and wondering how they are affecting your own course of life. (Graeme McNee - The List - 01/09/16)

A solo show, written and performed by Clair Whitfield and directed by Guy Masterson, which is a mix of prose and storytelling, physical theatre and character performance weaving London and India in a tale of fate, friendship and personal transformation.
This is a tale set mainly in Camden where Ajna, an Indian martial arts teacher from Kerala, unexpectedly inherits a cobbler's shop due to the death of an uncle. New to the metropolis Ajna quickly learns the cobbler's art and sets about trying to help those with whom he comes into contact with by engineering slithers of insole to work some kind of magic on the meridians in the feet and thus bring about life changes in the wearer of the repaired shoes. Katie, the other main character of the piece, open's a pop-up Indian delicatessen next door and Anja becomes her food taster and adviser on the exacting science of Keralan food preparation processes and technique. The ensuing friendship, as well as a number of other minor characters that appear passim, is the main emotional meat of the piece as they connect to each other in unexpected ways. As an out-of-towner with a rather traumatic history, Ajna is somewhat comparable to the lone cowboy of Western movies who, due to his own story, can never take root in town but nevertheless is a source of transformation for those around him and is himself transformed.
It is delivered by Whitfield with much gusto and panache and I found her prose and rhyme to be sophisticated and very pleasing, and her physical delivery via her postures and quasi-dance enactments was not overplayed. The delivery was word perfect with not a single slip.
It is an enthralling tale, full of charm and atmosphere, well executed with great enthusiasm by Whitfield - and a few laughs along the way too. (Leslie Lane - FringeReview.com - 25/08/16)

Standing centre stage, Clair Whitefield, wearing a simple red T shirt and loose blue trousers, begins to tell us an extraordinary, humbling story of love, family, loss, grief, new beginnings and unexpected friendships.
From the first line, we are drawn into a traveller's tale from India to London. We begin on Parliament Hill in the early morning before the dog walkers arrive; beside the trees you will observe a Kalari master practicing the sacred martial art, a ritual of flowing kicks and sticks to represent power, respect and balance.
This is Ajna Jan, who has arrived from Kerala to take over his late uncle's cobbler's shop in Camden. He has left behind the colour and chaos, tuk tuks and street vendors to experience the black tunnel of the Northern Line en route to 75 Camden Street.
But he is no ordinary cobbler, repairing battered shoes. The kindly, quiet Ajna is a spiritual gentleman who is able to combine the ancient art of reflexology to refresh and energise the tired souls of his customers with magical results.
Clair is a masterly mime artist and actress, who, with graceful movement, brings to life with meticulous detail the various characters, from lawyers to young lovers, who visit the shop.
Next door, Katy, just back from a gap year in India has opened her Kerala café - and Ajna is of course quick to offer his expertise as a taster of her pakoras and samosas; the enticing description of fragrant coconut, lime, Kashmiri chillies and banana leaves is so pungent you actually believe that Madhur Jaffrey is sizzling the spices on stage.
Written as a richly imaginative poetry-play, the lyrical language is reminiscent in its gentle humour and emotional insight of T S Eliot's The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock. It is beautifully directed by Guy Masterson, like a choreographed dance with just sound effects and lighting to create a real sense of being taken on this journey from Cochin to Camden.
This is storytelling at its most simple and most enlightening and rather like the memoir and film, Eat Pray Love, explores issues of nationality, language, faith and culture. Ultimately it is about the joy of cooking and sharing good food which brings people together, the true meaning of companionship. Chopping Chillies is a delicious, appetising, spicy feast of a show. (Vivien Devlin - Edinburgh Guide 11/08/16)

TV BOMB 18/08/16
There's no doubt about it, Clair Whitefield is the Real Thing. A poet-turned-playwright, Chopping Chillies is her first play, and this is its second outing at the Fringe, having been seen and subsequently picked up by renowned producer-director, Guy Masterson, in 2015. This polished, newly-directed production is therefore an amalgamation of Whitefield's passion and Masterson's experience, and it shows.
The premise is simple enough: We, the audience, are treated to the gentle unravelling of the unlikely yet compellingly believable tale of Ajna Jan, a martial arts Master in Kerala, who becomes a cobbler in Camden following the death of his family. Next door to his little shop, a young woman named Katie opens an Indian restaurant and, while Ajna is helping strangers through pressure points on the soles of their shoes, he also helps Katie, more overtly, with the 'soul' of her food. This is no contrived love affair, but a low-key, organic friendship as panacea to pain. Rarely has a character's journey been related with such subtlety *and* pathos.
Alone on the practically bare stage, Whitefield plays all the parts, beginning with Ajna himself. At times, she immerses herself fully into the here and now of the story, so that we are incontrovertibly transported to that moment through Whitefield's voice, her mannerisms, her very body. At others, she is the narrator, reverting to the third person and the past tense, which controverts the standard format of a 'play', and yet serves as counterpoint to the 'present' scenes, pushing them into vivid relief, wherein all the senses waken. We can smell Katie's spices, and we can taste her chillies. As for Ajna Jan, we can taste his tears.
It is difficult to determine whether Chopping Chillies truly challenges the boundaries of theatre-writing, or whether it is simply a more theatrical presentation of a piece of beautiful prose. Whitefield herself calls it a 'poetry-play', and her performance poetry origins are certainly in evidence. However, Masterson states in the programme notes that, "Great theatre should be a tempest of energy, illuminated by flashes of blinding communication" and "it should be an experience that no other medium can provide". The former description encapsulates this performance perfectly and, whilst the script would no doubt work well enough on the radio or printed in a book, there is no substitution for the live experience of witnessing - and sharing - this tale around a stage. It is, after all, our modern equivalent of the campfire.
Whitefield is undoubtedly an accomplished wordsmith of lyrical sensibilities, and ultimately, her pairing with Masterson is a hit. Together, they convey the universal power of storytelling with a feather-light touch, which nevertheless hits home when it needs to. However, a huge part of the magic comes from Whitefield herself. She is a performer of unconscious but captivating charm. Chopping Chillies is a thoroughly engrossing way to spend an hour. (Laura Ingram - TV Bomb 18/08/16)

THREE WEEKS 21/08/16
Walk a mile in someone's shoes to know them; walk 4,000 miles, and you may strike the depth of compassion reached in this quietly powerful tale of an Indian cobbler exiled in Camden. Through a captivating performance by solo storyteller Clair Whitefield, the audience follows the path of Ajna, a widower who swaps the Ganga's holy waters for the 'black spine' of London's Northern Line. Struggling to make sense of both his grief and city life, Ajna becomes a reluctant taste-tester for the woman next door's gap-yah inspired Indian kitchen. Their unlikely friendship is a gently comic backdrop to an aching but ultimately uplifting portrayal of life after loss, the imprint of which lasts long after the performance ends. (Sarah Richardson - Three Weeks - 21/08/16)

Chopping Chillies Punters Reviews - Edinburgh 2016

Lotti Gompertz 18/08/16
I am not sure who wrote the story but this is worth more than the price of the ticket... It begins a story and unfolds a visceral tale of cross continent connection that is sensuously spicy and tenderly reaches in to move you when you least expect it to. If you have ever grieved, lost, loved, pined through nostalgia and been frustrated by do gooders..... This show will be something that merges with your soul. The performer evokes taste and smell with her words and blissfully carries this fast paced narrative with its characters to a fantastic finish. This should win an award. My only regret is that I want moments to linger like flavour of a great dish!

David G 24/08/16
Charming and well written and performed - go and see it.

C J Nichol 22/08/16
I am not sure who wrote the story but this is worth more than the price of the ticket... It begins a story and unfolds a visceral tale of cross continent connection that is sensuously spicy and tenderly reaches in to move you when you least expect it to. If you have ever grieved, lost, loved, pined through nostalgia and been frustrated by do gooders..... This show will be something that merges with your soul. The performer evokes taste and smell with her words and blissfully carries this fast paced narrative with its chataracters to a fantastic finish. This should win an award. My only regret is that I want moments to linger like flavour of a great dish!

Karen hatchell 22/08/16
Must see. Takes you on a journey of taste sight smell emotion. So glad I saw this Can't recommend it enough.

Ramon Estevez 21/08/16
Excellent and very intimate. Very well acted and non sentimental. A very moving piece well worth seeing.. Highly recommend.. Very relevant piece not what I was expecting.. A nice mix of drama tragedy and humor. Loved it!

Sean Davis 17/08/16
***** This one woman show has an Indian martial arts guru coming to London to run his deceased uncle's shoe repair store, and proceeds to help his hippie neighbor with her Indian restaurant. Clair Whitefield brings both the dour Indian and the light restaurateur to life with equal ease. Though the coincidence of shared sandals is unnecessary, it does at a touch of magic that fits the story.
This was the most enjoyable of the 80 shows I have seen so far this year. You may see my other similarly short reviews, in order from best to worst, at my non-commercial website: www.fringefan.info.

Jane Calvert 15/08/16
Wow ! What an amazing talent. Claire held us spellbound throughout her enchanting performance , transporting us from Camden to Kerala with her tale. Her characters full of both human vulnerability and great strength . She kept us transfixed for 60 minuets without missing a beat ! My favourite show so far .

Pat Reid 10/08/16
wonderful show and an excellent performance from Clair. Her charisma, imagination and powerful story telling hold us rapt from the start. She weaves her tale seamlessly, engagingly, and all too soon we are at the end of this fabulous feast & left wanting more. Go and enjoy!

Catherine Walker 06/08/16
What a pleasure to spend an hour in the divine company of Claire Whitefield. A storyteller extraordinaire who conjures up sights, sounds, smells and emotions through an utterly compelling 60mins. Spellbinding stuff from a rising talent.

CLAIR WHITEFIELD - Writer & Performer
Clair has been writing and performing poetry from more than a decade. During this time, she's been resident poet at poetry institution Bang Said the Gun, won the Valentine's Day Anti-Slam and the Farrago Easter Slam and performed at festivals, museums, pubs and cafes all around the UK.
Chopping Chillies is her first poetry play.
Download: Guy Masterson Headshot (image: Brigitta Scholz-Mastroianni 2014)

GUY MASTERSON - Director (click for additional biographical material)
After obtaining a Joint Honours degree in Biochemistry and Chemistry from Cardiff University in 1982, Guy studied drama at UCLA's School of Drama and started as an actor in 1985 in Hollywood. He returned to the UK in 1989 to study further at LAMDA.
Following a conventional start in plays, film and television, Guy began solo performing in 1991 with The Boy's Own Story and thence Under Milk Wood in 1994 and Animal Farm in 1995. He first produced/directed in 1993 with Playing Burton and participated at the Edinburgh Festival for the first time in 1994. The following 23 seasons saw his association with some of Edinburgh's most celebrated hits (see company history) and his company became the Fringe's most awarded independent theatre producer - garnering 8 Scotsman Fringe Firsts, 3 Herald Angels, 25 Stage Award nominations (including 4 wins) together with numerous lesser awa rds. His 2010 production of Morecambe transferred to the West End and won a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Entertainment plus another nomination for the actor playing Eric. In 2014, his epic production of Animal Farm the Tumanishvili Film Actors Theatre of Tbilisi, Georgia, won the Stage Award for Best Ensemble.
As a performer, he was nominated for The Stage Award for Best Actor for A Soldier's Song (1998), Under Milk Wood in 2003, Shylock in 2011, and won in 2001 with Fern Hill & Other Dylan Thomas. He received Edinburgh's most prestigious accolade, The Jack Tinker Spirit of the Fringe Award, in 2003. At Edinburgh 2016 he created his first overtly stand-up comic piece, Barking Mad!
His theatrical commitments have largely kept him out of mainstream film and television, however, he has made the obligatory appearance on Casualty (Christmas Special 2004) and has been the Franziskaner Monk - the main character of a premium German beer - since 2007!
Other directorial credits include; Michael Brandon's Off Ramps (2017) Chopping Chillies, Absolution (2016) Cinderella, The Devil's Passion, Dylan Thomas: the Man, The Myth (2015), Sleeping Beauty, Animal Farm (full cast version 2014), The Odd Couple, Beauty And The Beast (2013) Female Gothic, A Soldiers Song, Imperial Fizz (2012) The Diaries of Adam & Eve (2011); Long Live The King, I, Elizabeth (2010); Morecambe, Austen's Women (2009); Reasonable Doubt, Scaramouche Jones (2008); The Eagle Dances, Follow Me, The Mistress (2007); Levelland (UK & OZ), Cooking With Puccini (2006); The Odd Couple, Swift (2005); Borge Again!, 12 Angry Men - Oz (2004); 12 Angry Men - UK (2003); Goering's Defence, A Slight Tilt To The Left (2002); Resolution, Mom, I'm Not A Lawyer (2001); All Words For Sex (2000); Adolf (1999); Hollywood Screams II (1998) Bye Bye Blackbird (1997); The House Of Correction (1996); Playing Burton (UK 1994, NZ 2002) The Private Ear & The Public Eye.
His passion is to bring great ideas to life and new talent to the stage. He is married to Brigitta and father to Indigo and Tallulah...

There is one question people always ask me about Chopping Chillies: Where did the idea come from?
Well, when I was working in Camden, I'd go get my shoes heeled at a cobbler's on the high street. While waiting for them to be fixed, I'd sit on the stool by the counter and look out at the Chinese medicine shop across the road. In the window there was always a huge annotated reflexology diagram, explaining how every organ in your body is mirrored on the soles of your feet: your head is your big toe, your intestines your instep and your eyes and ears are your little toes etc. And then I started thinking: What if the cobbler and the Chinese doctor joined forces? What if special in-soles could be inserted into your shoes that would tickle all the right reflexology points, super-charge your meridians and cure you of all your physical pains and heartaches? And so, with support from performance poetry organisation, Apples and Snakes, and its London coordinator, Russell Thompson, I began writing The Cobbler from Kerala, a story about a magical cobbler from India, Ajna Jan, who could do just that: fix all his customers problems without them ever knowing.
At the same time as working in Camden, I was also contemplating training to become a yoga teacher. A few months after turning 30, I quit my job and went to India to do just that. It was being able to spend this time studying yoga that sparked a fascination with India that runs all the way through Chopping Chillies, the final incarnation of my original Cobbler story.
It's also of note perhaps, that on the day I first started writing this story, I broke my big toe. I then broke the same toe again six weeks later. For a long while all I could think about was feet and shoes. It also meant I had the perfect excuse to just sit and write to my heart's content.

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Clair Whitefield in Chopping Chillies (image: Christa Holka)
Clair Whitefield in Chopping Chillies (image: Christa Holka)
Clair Whitefield in Chopping Chillies (image: Christa Holka)
Clair Whitefield in Chopping Chillies (image: Christa Holka)

Clinton Hercules Tek Specs - click to download
To View or Download Specifications click here for Technical Specs FOR CHOPPING CHILLIES


(NB: These are PDF files. You will require Adobe Reader to open them)

  • Chopping Chillies 60 minutes
  • The Artist (Clair Whitefield) should arrive between 2 and 3 pm on the day of the performance (TBC).
  • Lighting should be hung and focused as much as possible IN ADVANCE OF ARRIVAL. Fine focusing can be completed upon arrival of artist and will take 1 hour.
  • The maximum lit Playing Area should be isolated to 6m wide x 5m deep within the available space.
  • Programming consists of 8 states A, B, B1, B2, C, E, E1 & E2, (No D) in 47 LX cues.
  • B1 & B2 are substates of B as E1 & E2 are substates of E.
  • All timings are clearly marked in the script and should be pre-programmed. (Programming time: 60 mins)
  • Running the show involves following provided script with explicitly marked sound and light cues
  • Script downloadable from www.theatretoursinternational.com/CurrentShows/CC.html#teks or provided by artist on day. Rehearsal time after Tek & programming Tek: 30mins.
  • Sound effects provided on Macbook running. Qlab. Appropriate STEREO equipment & desk are required.
  • The Set consists of a plain wooden chair with no arms. (Unless otherwise arranged with artist, please provide).
  • Clean tabs and backdrop required. If the stage is scuffed and/or dirty, we would be grateful for a good clean or repaint or dance floor.
  • Special notes: We would also be grateful for a clean dressing room with ironing & tea making facilities. Please provide refreshments for 4pm (Please liaise with artist regarding food requirements).
  • If available, please ensure the shower is clean and a fresh towel provided.

Under Milk Wood ChairImage of wooden chair required when company is travelling by air or train.