It was a balmy evening, the sun high in the sky unfurling its golden wings over mingling tourists, bees suckling at pregnant flowers. A slight breeze rustled through leafless trees, the smell of anticipation scurrying across gritted floors. For tonight we would feast like Queens And Kings at Dinner Is Coming, an immersive dining experience in Waterloo that implored us into its caricature world. Past the graffiti tunnels we sauntered, an obligatory photo op at nearby murals in shades of teal and orange commenced, but we were delighted by the monochromatic entrance that led us into the Vaults, where a paradoxical version of Game Of Thrones would be our show of choice this evening. The theatre gang sashayed into the ‘marriage hall’ with great aplomb, eyeing up the ‘throne of wooden forks’ with gurgling laughter, actors milling around the space where us mere spectators perched, inviting us into a tongue in cheek discussion. King Jaffrey- unlike his GOT character was a right hoot, waxing lyrical about all the people who got on his nerves, and claiming ‘Gary’ from the audience would be the next to get his wrath, placing a shiny red apple on his balding head, while pretending to fire a bow and arrow at his head in ridiculous jest. Bemused, we clambered up the stairs to take our turn trying out the wooden fork throne, conjuring up our inner Dragon Queen, as we plunged into Dinner is Coming’s interactive dining experience at The Vaults.
Bordering on a Celebrity Juice meets Edinburgh Fringe skit with pie and wine as a bonus, Dinner is Coming packs in more rude and crude sketches than you can count stars. Created by Ami Stidolph and Sam Carrack, and based on the dizzyingly popular HBO show, the real Game Of Thrones might have come to an end, but one thing is for certain, is that ‘dinner will never stop coming at the vaults’, at least if the audience have anything to say about it. Packed out for the night, we settled in for an evening of crude intrigue, debauchery and hilarious one liners as our bellies heaved with infectious chortles, and a wave of joy bounced around the room in giddy pleasure. From the hilarity of Johns Know and his wig to ‘Margarine’ and her quest to win Miss Congeniality (wrong show darling), comedy and banquet style dining collided in a lovably mismatched fashion. In true Game of Thrones style, the evening begins with a ceremonious marriage between the brattish Jaffrey Bearathon (the unfortunate heir to the Several Kingdoms, and Margarine, the beautiful daughter of the noble Trywell Family, who quite clearly is cursed with having terrible taste in men. And yet their ‘happy, loveless marriage is over in mere moments’ poisoned by the wine chalice that was meant to be his wedding party in a cup, the next in line suffering the same unfortunate fate. Unlike Game of Thrones, there is no seriousness in the dialogue here; you might weep at the death of your favourite character and hold jubilant celebrations for the overthrow of your most hated, but here at Dinner is Coming there is nothing but the roaring unison of laughter, as we watch Jaffrey Bearathon fall from grace in a very timely fashion.
What commences next is a ‘who dunit’ narrative, as diners must try to work out who is responsible for the outrage and pledge allegiance to one of the three houses. The house with the most members at the end of the night wins a victorious goblet of red or white wine for each member, which believe me tastes as sweet as it sounds. Handed a colour coded band before you enter the Vaults, each colour represents a ‘potential heir’ to the wooden fork throne, with the opportunity to switch allegiance if you choose to ‘turn your coat’. And while you might not be granted dominion for pledging allegiance to the most popular heir, who says no to free alcohol (unless booze is not really your thing, in which case fair enough)? Not only are the cast exceptional, with Johns Know late entry into the Easteros party being particularly memorable, as the dim witted but lovable rogue who really does know nothing, but everything from the sumptuously decorated banqueting hall to the deliciously seasoned food, is truly testament to Dinner Is Coming and its commitment to giving you a dining experience that knocks the socks off its competitors. What’s more you don’t even need to be well versed with Game of Thrones to appreciate its bawdy humor; if you love excellent food, good booze and exceptional acting, then not knowing your ‘Trywells’ from your Bannisters or Tarragons (the three houses) is not going to stop you from having a honking good time.
With the cast including the catty and duplicitous Kirsti Bannister (Janina Smith), the ‘People’s Princess’ Margarine (Charlotte Newton John), the conniving Jimmy Bannister who eats incest for breakfast (Jake Hassam) the cool dragon lady Dany Tarragon (Georgia Clarke Day) the dim but fun Johns Know (Laurence Pears) and the surprisingly funny for an enuch Varys (Liam Fleming), each actor is brilliantly committed to their roles. My personal favourite? The late arrival of Johns Know, which is ironic considering I was never a fan of him from the actual Game of Thrones show. After all Jon Snow might know nothing but in Dinner Is Coming, for the first time he’s a character that I can truly get behind. Not only does he rock up wearing a ‘thirsty ass wig’ that would look more at home in a birds nest than someone’s head but his admission of asking ‘who do I have to fuck round here to be made king’ certainly made me laugh. And who could forget this scene stealing Northern Lad get an absolute ribbing by Varicose who laughed at his inability to spell his own name. True Johns Know wasn’t the brightest spark but its easy to pledge allegiance to someone who makes you laugh, as the crowd of rowdy devotees knew all too well, quite literally declaring love for their favourite Northerner who couldn’t spell with fanatical devotion.
Coinciding with the arrival of my favourite character, was our ascension into the magnificent banqueting hall, which hearkened back into an era where Medieval Lords and Ladies ruled the roost, the space decorated with brightly coloured swags of draped fabric, chandeliers and candles. While some critics have called the design of the ‘first room’ ropey and sparse, the bunting clad banqueting hall is arguably more impressive, as you watch each potential heir to the throne converse with the audience underneath the banners that were meant to signal the beginning of a wedding feast between Jaffery and Margerine. There are the Bannisters who quip about their love for incest (of course) and slander their opponents as far as they can throw them, Margarine who wants nothing more than to make new friends (again this is not RU Paul’s Drag Race, being congenial does not fly in the Easteros kingdom) and Dany whose baby dragons are not quite as they seem… Watching how quick they are to react to audience humour is a delight, and their retorts are comic gold, able to riff off audience interaction on the spot with ease, making it a fun night out thanks to enthusiastic cast performances. I confess I was eager to provide cast members with ‘humorous material to work with’ to truly get the party started. There was Dany asking us where dragons could be found to which I replied ‘in my back garden’, Kirst asking me if I wanted to join her house, which I politely declined by telling her that I wasn’t into incest and Varys who asked if anyone knew what it felt like to have no balls, me quipping back that I had felt the freedom on my private parts since 1993, engaging in the same bawdy humor as the Dinner is Coming discourse encouraged.
While the execution of the casting and set design by stage designer Jessica Fox and the team of Chavdar Todorov and Steven Estevez is flawless, if there is one thing that surprised me the most is just how divine the banquet spread really was. A feast for the senses, the food is designed with sharing in mind, large platters of meat and vegetables, with fresh salads and pies to be ladled out accordingly among fellow lords and ladies at the table, with dramatic flourish. From cauldrons of fragrant bullion, to flavoursome vegan and vegetarian options that isn’t just a stuffed mushroom or risotto, it is plain to see that great care has been taken to make Dinner is Coming just as much a gastronomic experience as well as an innovative theatric yet comedic show. We began with a starter of fava beans, asparagus, red radish and mint with a pea and wildwood viscous garlic bullion which was delicate but zingy and playful, a moerish appetizer that was surprisingly filling given that it was the first course. From the outset Dinner is Coming came to slay; flavours swam in a bright green pool of pea and garlic bullion, while cubes of lemon verbena jelly danced in an exhilarating swarm of taste and texture on the tip of our rasping tongues. Served with crispy brown rustic homemade bread, and washed down with ‘Milk of The Poppy’, a rum based cocktail seeped in generous helpings of alcohol , the starter was a right treat, and we chortled at the likes of Jimmy Bannister and Varicose helping themselves to food and drink from the audience’s tables.
The main course proved to be trickier for me as a vegetarian with allergies, as the vegetarian option consisted of spiced cauliflower, sweet potato and bean stew and a salad of green courgette, the latter two of which had ingredients I was allergic to, so Dinner Is Coming rustled up some specialist options for me. The salad was drenched in olive oil, with fresh pesto dressing, candy beetroot, butter lettuce, peas and parsley, which was rather moreish, while the spiced cauliflower was both rustic and modern, melting wonderfully in our mouths. When it came to the ‘special pie’ they had made me, which they assured me was free from all my allergens, it turned out that they had served me something I was allergic to, finding out to my dismay I had bitten into something which could make me ill. But this was the only critique I have from the whole night, and they were quick to take away the dish, and to say sorry offered me a free drink on the house which I thought was very nice of them.While they couldn’t give me a replacement option for the pie, I was nevertheless content with the flavoured salad and spiced cauliflower, with punchy egmont carrots. But nothing could have prepared me for the divine burbank poatoes which in my opinion were the stars of the main course, with crispy skins and sweet, bursting insides, which had me pulsating to a foodgasmic climax.
Sipping on my cocktail thoughtfully as I watched the show unfold, the twisty turny homage to Game of Thrones created a fun evening that no audience member could forget, oh how we laughed and feasted. But our night wasn’t over just yet; with the promise of free wine for anyone ‘backing the right house’ , we were given one more salivating dish to toy with our senses, a dessert comprised of a sumptuous pear drenched in red wine, cinnamon and star anise with sweet and sour cream atop. Rightfully titled ‘ A Scarlet Ending’ (sorry I’m not giving you anymore spoilers) the wine poached pear was a welcome aphrodisiac after all the ‘murder’ and ‘pillaging’ we had witnessed and a wondrous climax to an evening conditioned by murderous intentions, connivery and a sprinkling of non PC humor. As the moon hung heavy in the sky, casting its silver ethereal light over the Vaults, we bid our goodbyes, wine coating our bellies with warmth, tip tapping our heels on the pavement, the night had drawn to a close. And while our fun had ended and our beds craved our warm bodies, as we sank into hard mattresses, we dreamed of Dinner is Coming and it’s wondrous feast, where Easteros was intertwined with the land of the nod. And what a beautiful dream that was.
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Please note I was invited in for a complimentary meal and show via Love Pop Ups London but all thoughts are my own and are not affected by complimentary services.