Shoreditch Town Hall
Quick tip: if you want to keep this reviewer happy, small snacks throughout a production are an excellent start. I honestly think all theatre shows, and potentially all experiences in general (with a few notable exceptions), would be improved with some light grazing included.
Jack Lowe’s Gastronomic has certainly taken this on board, delivering seven small courses throughout the evening. Set in-the-round, the audience plays the part of airplane passengers as the onboard kitchen staff meal prep centre-stage (actually prepared off-stage by Head Chef Clyde Ngounou). Each dish is tied to a moment or a memory, taking us back to its inception and unravelling a slightly more layered story than perhaps we were expecting.
Nora (Georgina Strawson), an accomplished chef, is running the onboard kitchen for the first time and on her team she’s brought her old colleague and friend Agat (Ani Nelson) and mystery man Luca (Craig Hamilton) whose origins are unknown...
Themes circle around food as vivid nostalgia, the international community and love over law. The link between the gastronomic element and the story itself is a little unworked; there is definitely something interesting there and, as I’ve already mentioned, it’s certainly an enjoyable aspect of the evening, but it feels slightly tenuous.
Given the immersive nature of the show, I was expecting to have to get involved a little more but audience participation is agreeably gentle. Audience members are occasionally spotlighted and given a passenger profile: Mark hates flying and is looking forward to seeing his kids; Janine has taken half a Valium and is already passed out on her neighbour’s shoulder and so forth.
Unlike most plane journeys I’ve been on, the food is actually delicious, with complex flavours, clever concepts and stunning presentation. The performances too are well done, each cast member playing at least one other role and easily transforming with only the help of a high-vis or kitchen work shirt to tip us off. And whilst as a concept it doesn’t quite come together, this had little effect on my enjoyment of the evening. A unique experience, executed with excesses of creativity and care.
Reviewer: Miriam Sallon