Subject to the secretive nature of this show, this review is somewhat cryptic, so as to preserve the experience for any future visitors. However, an unconventional write-up fits well for a show which challenges you to explore every inch of your imagination and taste buds, leaving you often entranced, if not occasionally confused.
Although this is my first experience of Gingerline’s theatrical dining extravaganzas, it is not their first event. In fact, they have done three previous Chambers events and several other immersive dining experiences. This particular adventure consists of six different chambers, which serve up large portions of appetisers and absurdity. The world they have created is unlike anything I have ever experienced; my brain’s attempts to rationalise my surroundings can’t compete with the bewildering maze which explores those dreams which dwell in the deep recesses of our consciousness.
Stripeland Productions’ set design plays a huge part in transporting the audience to each different realm, as do the costumes brought to life by Sophie Barlow, Madeleine Edis and Annie Hiner. Both elements simultaneously add to the feeling of synaesthesia throughout the adventure, a feeling which induces a sense of giddiness only brought on by the sudden ability to live inside one’s dreams.
The characters we meet along the way are superb companions; they make us laugh, but only in excitement and never as a cause of nervous apprehension. Although some appear more at home in this immersive setting, they all embody their different personas with enough conviction to make the impossible seem palpable, with an evident ease when responding in the moment to the different audience reactions.
An important part of the evening’s revelry is the food. Six different dishes which require us to let go of any dinnertime preferences and just eat. The maturity of my taste buds continues to increase with each new dish I sample, with food that has been selected from throughout time and space: from plates taken right out of a Star Wars film, to food acquired from the dinner table of lords and ladies. It has no boundaries and no problem with keeping up with the weird and wonderful feel of the event.
There is one element of this experience which I don’t understand, not due to the nonsensical nature of the performance, but due to the show’s looser grasp on the structure of the story. The chambers don’t correlate with each other and yet, the storyline suggests that they should. There are moments in which we are asked to reflect on these connections, but these links don’t exist. The company could eradicate the need for an overarching story, simply by presenting the chambers as what they are – a dream world. Such a setting would validate any fantastical spectacle imaginable, replacing such a rigid structure of beginning, middle and end, which feels wrong in a space as non-traditional as this. It is unfortunate that the current route ends with the illusion becoming partially broken, which I feel undermines the atmosphere created in the previous chambers. Without this, I would be left only in awe and yet, I leave with a sense of confusion at what the end goal was and whether or not it was achieved.
Although I believe some of the structural choices are questionable, there is no doubt that stylistically this piece is a feast for the senses. It is a night of true playfulness, with an adventure plucked off of a bookshelf and crafted to allow us to wander through the chapters of our imagination; it is an experience which definitely leaves me hungry for more.
Chambers is booking at their secret venue in Hoxton until 28 September. For more information and tickets, visit the Chambers website.