De Pablo a Violeta: Eat, drink and be merry
Dinner shows usually give me the jitters. You just don’t know whether they will be cringe worthy or an amazing display of unrealistic acrobatics - or both. In those cases, all you can do is smile and clap and wish you were somewhere else, probably. So when I was asked to go to a new show called De Pablo a Violeta in Santiago I had some misgivings but, in the end, I was gladly proven wrong.
We Chileans tend to be a bit of an ungrateful bunch; we have enough history, folklore and heritage to be tremendously proud and yet we tend to ignore it or, worse, be ashamed of it if someone tries to celebrate it. And so, for once, I will change this habit, be grateful and say...it was a brilliant party!
For this dinner show is precisely that – you go to have fun and enjoy the party. It’s not a serious cultural affair; it’s an entertaining cultural and culinary affair. The name derives from an alleged conversation between the Nobel Prize poet Pablo Neruda and the Chilean folklorist Violeta Parra, in which they planned to open a restaurant together; Neruda was to provide the food and Violeta the entertainment. It never happened, of course, but I’m pretty sure they would have liked the idea, with Neruda being a bon vivant who loved giving parties filled with good food, wine and poetry, and Violeta, the matriarch of the Chilean Parra clan, a famously artistic family that still goes on today, who played the guitar, sang for the audience and made sure everyone had a good meal.
The evening starts with your arrival at a restored old house in the bohemian Bellavista neighbourhood where drinks and nibbles are on offer; free flowing and plenty, and all traditionally Chilean from the north, south and middle of the country. The first two things you notice as you enter the courtyard are the big barrels of wine and the massive quincho with the lamb roasting Patagonian-style. The cast mingles with the guests, then they pick up instruments, go to a room and start singing, just as your musical friends would at any given party – or at least mine would! They dance, they take you to dance, you fumble and try; the cast leads you, help and explain if you ask. Everybody is happy and you toast to whatever they say.
Then comes dinner. You’re led to your table in front of the stage where the show continues and, between your starter, main course and dessert, you learn how locals dance and sing in Valparaíso, Easter Island, Chiloé and Atacama. The evening ends where it started, the cast dancing and mingling, and the guests staggering with their after-dinner drinks, singing along and being tremendously merry.
This was one show which definitely took away those jitters.