Review: Dinner is Coming, The Vaults

Some properly tasty food makes the Game of Thrones-inspired immersive show Dinner is Coming an entertaining night indeed at The Vaults

“Poor Tom-Tom”

Stepping into the world of immersive experiences as a reviewer can be a tricky business. Given the sums of money that can be charged and the subjectiveness of your time there, to be able to put one’s hand on one’s heart and say you should put your hand on your wallet is rife with difficulty. I had one of my all-time greatest adventures on my first trip on You Me Bum Bum Train and my one and only venture to Secret Cinema had a moment of unforgettable pure magic but ask me about value for money, for you, and I’m stumped.

Which is a long-winded way of saying you should take this review with a pinch of salt. Although you won’t need to add any salt because the cooking here at Dinner is Coming is really, really good. If you’ve been wondering what you should eat for dinner look no further! Designed and prepared onsite by Chavdar Todorov, Steven Estevez and their team, this is the kind of meal that comes close to justifying the ticket price alone. I always thought life was too short to roast a cauliflower but not any more, the slow-cooked lamb shoulder is melt-in-your-mouth delicious and yet somehow it is the salad that I remember the most – courgette, lettuce, beetroot and peas in a pesto-flecked dressing that makes every ingredient truly sing. Continue reading “Review: Dinner is Coming, The Vaults”

Review: Inside Pussy Riot, Saatchi Gallery

“Failure to do this will result in your fellow inmates being punished”

How far can immersive theatre push you? How far should immersive theatre push you? The disclaimer for Les Enfants Terribles’ Inside Pussy Riot warns us it is “not for the faint hearted, come prepared to demonstrate and stand up for what you believe in!”. But given that it is trying to give audiences a taste of what it is like to be on the wrong side of a totalitarian regime, from arrest to trial to incarceration with a bit of forced labour in there for good measure, there’s a limit to how far they can actually go.

Marking the 100th annversary of the Russian Revolution, Inside Pussy Riot revisits the experience of Nadya Tolokonnikova and her post punk, feminist art collective colleagues in Pussy Riot, who were convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment for performing less than 40 seconds of an anti-Putin song in a Moscow cathedral. From the opening moments when you’re invited to pick a balaclava (a range of colours available) to the climactic encouragement to raise your voice in protest, there’s quite the journey ahead. Continue reading “Review: Inside Pussy Riot, Saatchi Gallery”

Review: Little Women The Musical, LOST Theatre

“Mother says its going to be a hard winter for everyone”

With music and lyrics by Lionel Segal and book by Peter Layton, this version of Little Women The Musical bears no relation to the production that ran for a short while on Broadway and has only been seen before in a one night concert showcase in 2005, making this the UK premiere run at the LOST theatre in Wandsworth. The musical is based on Louisa May Alcott’s well-loved 1868 novel, following the fortunes of the four March sisters in New England during Civil War-time as family responsibilities are cast against personal ambition and lives and loves pass by as poverty and social change loom large.

Whereas Layton book remains largely faithful to the novel, it’s not a story that one would assume immediately lends itself to the musical treatment. Segal’s music does not overtly embrace the music of the time as far as I could perceive, but rather goes for a modern-sounding aesthetic which is extremely successful in parts and less so in others. Where the show is at its strongest is in elucidating the sisterly dynamic between the March girls and their songs together illuminate this perfectly, a real sense of familial bond emerging from their playful vitality and gorgeous harmonising. Charlotte Newton John’s characterful Jo leads the show extremely well, with sensitive support from Claire Chambers and Laura Hope London as Beth and Meg respectively and a sprightly turn from Caroline Rodgers as the young brattish Amy, who delivers her malapropisms perhaps a little too knowingly. Continue reading “Review: Little Women The Musical, LOST Theatre”

Review: Wilton’s Vintage Christmas, Wilton’s Music Hall

“I am sure that I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time”

With its first ever in-house festive production, Wilton’s Music Hall have spent most of the month celebrating Wilton’s Vintage Christmas, a show put together and directed by Nick Hutchinson. To capture the most Christmassy spirit possible at one of my most favourite, truly atmospheric London venues, our trip took place to the last show of the run, as close to the day as we could make it and, as it turned out, on as snowy a day as you’ll ever see in London town!

Taking the form of a Victorian variety show, hosted by John Wilton himself (played by the Archers’ Graham Seed), with poetry and drama recitals alongside carols and music hall songs taking us throughout an authentically old-fashioned Christmas of the past, present and yet-to-come, from the perspective of the Victorians of course, performed by a company of seven in beautiful-looking velvets, tweeds and period-heavy detail. The evening was a nice blend, so bawdy numbers like the saucy reveals in ‘When I Take My Promenade’, deliciously performed by Lottie Latham and Vince Leigh’s sozzled sing-along through Champagne Charlie were counterpointed by a beautifully moving account by Owen Pugh of the Christmas Day Truce on the battlefields of WWI, attributed to Private Frederick Heath, a striking reminder of a bygone time that is sadly gone now.

There was a more reflective note to the contemporary section with a nod to the social history of the time and in particular this specific area of East London, the utter poverty of which was written about and exposed to society at large for the first time by Henry Mayhew, of whom current Director of Wilton’s Frances Mayhew is a direct descendant. So monologues like Water Cress Girl and Crossing Sweeper sat next to some of the bleaker passages from Dickens’ work, rooting the show in the reality of the diversity of society which still persists today: Christmas isn’t always the jolliest time of year for everyone, especially in tight financial times.

But there was also the light-hearted too with excerpts of prose from the likes of Noël Coward, Dylan Thomas and TS Eliot and a comic poem I hadn’t heard of before which was lovely, The Boy Who Laughed At Santa Claus by Ogden Nash. And no matter how many times you hear it, the redemptive power of the Christmas spirit that finally sways Ebenezer Scrooge is a wonderful thing to behold and combined with the gorgeous reveal of a ginormous Christmas tree at the back of the stage, the final sing-along to carols with cups of mulled wine made for a pleasing ending to a mixed evening of mixed entertainment.

Running time: 90 minutes (without interval)
Programme cost: £2
Booking until 18th December