On a summer’s Saturday evening, as rain poured outside, we attended a most curious dinner party...
On a summer’s Saturday evening, as rain poured outside, I attended a most curious dinner party.
Sat amongst strangers gathered around a horseshoe shaped table, like the beginning of many dinner parties, there were notes of slight unease and anticipation as the seats began to fill.
Our wine glasses topped up, dietary requirements noted and, as the seating arrangement encouraged, introductions made, we settled in to enjoy the spectacle. This isn’t dinner and a show. This is immersive dinner theatre.
The performance flowed like conversation around the table as our hosts, Strange Futures theatre company, shared anecdotes and reminiscences. Interrupting each other not unlike the loudest guests might at a more conventional dinner party.
They shared stories. Stories of comfort and community, of belonging and displacement, and above all, stories of nostalgia. Stories, ostensibly, about food. All while increasingly appetising aromas wafted over from the chef silently sauteing, simmering and stirring beside the banqueting table.
Sat shoulder to shoulder with the performers in this unusual arrangement created a unique sense of intimacy. It’s not often at a theatre show that you periodically catch the eyes of fellow guests. At times a little awkward, but as the evening draws on, and especially in the many moments of humour which punctuated the performance, it evoked a feeling of closeness and confidentiality. A conviviality created by stories. A momentary community forged by food. Brought closer still by the countless toasts raised to the subjects of each delicious story, collected from real people in advance of each show.
The performers rise from the table and take on a new role as servers, piling our plates with the dishes they’d described. Steaming Hungarian goulash, creamy hummus, cumin scented Arabic beans, falafel, fattoush and the famous cheese souffle favoured by the landlady of a notable Nottingham pub. An unusual plateful perhaps. Each dish was created from a recipe given by the subjects of the stories which surrounded the meal.
Everything sampled was undeniably tasty. Though I had to draw the line at the insipidly milky blancmange as it wobbled past… a dish which for me carries potent, and not entirely pleasant, memories from childhood. While the slab of intensely coco-infused sponge with radioactive green mint custard, like a liquified Aero, hit the sweet spot of nostalgia just right.
This immersive dinner theatre was an intriguing experience at exceptional value. An evening’s unique entertainment and a small but delicious two-course meal (those with more voracious appetites should consider plans for a pre/apres-theatre snack) complete with a glass of wine for just £18.
A feast for the senses, and for the soul.
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