A crowd of expectant festival guests has already gathered around Henry J. Alles, as we arrive at the BIES Festival in the Biesbosch National Park in Dordrecht. Soon, the group is ready to go, and we head across the grassy fields towards the location of the Round Table. As we walk through the lush landscape, Alles presents himself as an archaeologist of the most recent history and introduces us to the project, while another member of the PeerGrouP hands a guest a jar of fresh cream. By shaking the jar and then passing it on to the next guest, everyone takes an active part in the dinner; we churn the butter. As we soon shall see, we are repeatedly invited to join in and take part in the performance through both actions and words. Halfway towards the location, in the middle of a green meadow, the Surinamese actor Maureen Tauwnaar greets us. As a personification of the primeval mother, she presents herself as Eve and tells a story about the expulsion from the Garden of Eden - or was an agricultural crisis to blame rather than a divine banishment? After this first example of the way in which the PeerGrouP likes to challenge prevailing belief systems, we reach the barn which houses the Round Table.

Soon, more basic ideas are questioned, through the culinary performance as well as the theatrical. We taste, sample and enjoy the medley of diverse dishes placed in front of us by Elles Kiers and her team. It is slow food, hearty and honest, made from local, organic ingredients and meat from local farmers. Chutneys, freshly baked bread, dried sausages and salads with berries are served in glass jars, wooden bowls and on raw slices of wood with bark edges, and it feels like taking a bite out of the landscape itself. In addition to this, small gastronomic surprises challenge our taste buds and make us renew our understanding of the ingredients and the preparation of them. What does a clove of garlic look like? What can a grape do? Meanwhile, the well-composed dramaturgical course takes us through several eras and countries via stories told and acted out by Alles and Tauwnaar, all of which in various ways have food - or the lack of food - as a focal point. The two actors complement each other in the way in which they convey their stories. Alles talks nineteen to the dozen, while he moves around the room eagerly and almost exhilarated, using his entire body in one energetic outburst after another. Tauwnaar, on the other hand, calmly sits down and tells us her stories with the voice of a mother telling tales to her children, warmly and with gravity.

During the course of the evening, the PeerGrouP leads us from theological discourses down to earth and straight into the ground – the ground that gives nourishment to the freshly harvested fruits and vegetables, which we are eating. They show us that when everyone brings something to the table, even stone soup can be a feast. Sharing meals and sharing stories are both integral parts of human existence - people have been telling stories since ancient times and the ritual of sharing a meal has ancient roots as well. Eating together embodies values of fellowship, hospitality, gratitude, sacrifice and compassion. Eating together is talking together. Dining at the Round Table is like picnicking in the wild – not only do you consume the prepared food, you also consume the specifically chosen environment. The PeerGrouP incites us to engage with our local landscape more consciously. Knowing a region's agricultural history, its narratives and its products gives us an awareness of what we are biting into.

 The Round Table, BIES Festival   Photo courtesy of the PeerGrouP 
 The Round Table, BIES Festival   Photo courtesy of the PeerGrouP