Cautiously overdressed the young lady hopped off the bus and into a new adventure, where fluffy clouds on legs baaaed like sheep, and the grass swayed merrily in the grayless wind. She was late, very late for an important date, oh what was she to do, red buses dormant in traffic, she watched the time slip away. Nevertheless despite the traffics best intentions she would not be any later for Scripts For Supper’s Wind in the Willows themed dining experience, plunging into the open air of Stepney Farm. It was an unassuming location for a ‘show and dinner’ two friends expecting an’indoor setup’ akin to a restaurant or large hall, but despite the unconventional setting, an open plan show in the middle of a farm’s carpark somehow worked. The breeze rustled through nearby trees and the lady in pink scurried to her seat, bidding her apologies for being late, handed a summer inspired gin cocktail with homemade lemon fizz and bubbles. The pink lady was unwell that particular weekend, yet despite her illness found herself immersed into a world of fantastical make believe, where a cult classic like Wind In The Willows was interlinked with an exceptional dining spread, toying with her tongue sensuously.
Smoothing down her dress, the pink lady tucked her legs under the table and settled in to watch the performance. Straight away she noticed the attention and care that Scripts for Supper had applied to the presentation of each dining table, that was akin to a magical surrealist woodland, that Toad, Rat, Mole and Badger would feel at home in. There was mini red ‘toadstools’ and tree stumps perched atop ‘grass that created a picnic vibe, while tealights in clear mason jars was a thoughtful touch, embodying the ‘culinary element’ of the dining experience. And who could forget the beautiful flowers in a vase, awash with violets, reds and lavenders, that brought into the vision of a pastoral countryside aesthetic infused with tranquility? But before we dive into the heart of the story, you might find yourself wondering, what exactly is Scripts For Supper? Well put simply, these culinary/ theatre buff geniuses create brand new adaptations of classic stories, and serve them alongside a bespoke menu that is inspired by the magical world of play. Not only do their themed dining experiences fuse together great food and theatre, but you also find yourself immersed in a world that borders on gastronomic, theatre led brilliance.
Founded in 2017 by Annie McKenzie (Masterchef Contestant), Scripts For Supper became a 5* sell out dining experience, who under Annie’s leadership as artistic director, saw phenomenal adaptations of cult classics such as Twelfth Night, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Wind in the Willows and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. But would Wind In The Willows match up to the hype? Admittedly it took me a while to get into the narrative, having not familiarized myself with the plot beforehand, and being late certainly didn’t help. Yet the actors (who doubled up as waiters) were kind, gracious and endearing, coming over to me and Ashley during one of the intervals, explaining what I had missed, which made the show make a little more sense. Yet there was something quite charming about its nonsensical narrative, a Salvador Dali approach to theatre, where four anthropomorphised animals frolic with careless abandon in a pastoral version of Edwardian England. It reminded me a little of Alice In Wonderland in terms of ‘play structure’ but Script For Supper’s Wind In The Willows adaptation was certainly its own, with actors filled with infectious energy, oh how they chortled.
Five actors leapt into their roles as Toad, Mole, Rat, Badger and ‘Narrator/Musician with aplomb, mysticism, adventure, morality, and camaraderie, key themes that ran throughout the play’s narrative, its evocation of the nature of the Thames Valley arguably celebratory, given its unconventional surroundings. And while a carpark might not seem like the obvious choice for a play defined by the natural world, simple props like a wooden crate on wheels which acts as a boat, a car, a dock in a court and a jail cell, amongst other things certainly helped the audience imagine what Wind In The Willows would look like if it played out in modern day. The actors were energetic that much was true, they came alive when they took centre stage, their evocation of each character that they took on was beguiling, the audience were entranced. And while it took me a while to ‘truly sink my teeth’ into the play’s narrative structure, the actors were commendable choices. They were engaging, passionate and truly invested in their roles; from Elizabeth Schenk (the narrator), whose portfolio includes Little Shop of Horrors at Open Air Regents Park Theatre and Nightmuse, a short film, with Met Film School, to Coco Maertens who plays Mole and is the founder of Starched Theatre, it’s clear that Scripts For Supper has done their homework. And who could forget the hilarity of the audience throwing ripped up tissue paper at the actors, which was meant to ’embody snow’ while the actors battled through an imaginary blizzard of our very own making? It was a feel good production, that was made up of a cast who worked seamlessly together, but who could forget the deliciousness of the food that crept into our famished bellies, vegetarian for me, meat for Ashley?
Composed of ‘five preliminary acts’, each theatre act is given an interval where the ‘food is served’ with Masterchef semi-finalist Juanita Hennessey cooking up the divine menu, composed of five courses. As we were late we missed the appetizer of bubble and squeak pasties, but nevertheless were able to sample the latter four courses which were engulfed in brilliance. Every single dish was beautifully presented, exquisitely cooked, and perfectly portioned, a surprising find given how ‘hit and miss’ immersive dining food can be. We began with a creamy and flavoursome watercress and pea soup, with asparagus and chives oil that was made to pour into the dish. The texture was grittier than your usual soup, but nevertheless it worked and was a filling starter that soothed our stomachs on a cold grayish day. I could have done without the asparagus oil as it wasn’t to my taste but nevertheless the flavours of the watercress grit were potent in the best possible way. The vivid green of the soup almost camouflaged itself into the fake grass topped picnic tables, save for the crisp white bowl and vintage style cutlery, but this wasn’t a bad thing. It only added to the quintessentially British charm of Scripts For Supper and its Wind In The Willows offering. The second course consisted of spring lamb, houmous and herbs on toast topped with sumac for the meat eaters, while as a vegetarian I had a specially made dish of spiced chickpeas slathered with houmous and fresh herbs on crusted brown toast, that brought into the idealistic culinary fantasy of a pastoral England.
Preferring the toast to the soup of before, I took my time to relish the flavours of the spiced chickpea toast, a combination that shouldn’t work but somehow was effortlessly delicious, lolling the parsley in my mouth, while the chickpeas popped down my awaiting throat, 1,2,3. But nothing could have prepared me for the third course, a cheddar and leek crumble, with caraway potatoes and fresh radish salad in vinaigrette dressing that oozed rustic homecooked fare at its very best. The cheddar wrapped around soft, tender leeks was delicious coated in crumble, while the potatoes melted in our mouths with sensuous ease. And even though radishes were never at the top of my vegetable list, it added a zesty, earthy freshness to the salad that immediately transported me into an Edwardian England, where long heavy gowns clambered onto mossy riverbanks, laughing at the thrill of dipping their toes into clear river streams, fish nibbling gently on their toes.
For the meat eaters Juanita cooked up bacon hock and leek crumble with the aforementioned trimmings, which Ashley said was divinity in a plate. If the cheddar and leek crumble was my favourite savory course, then dessert was my favourite overall course, charmingly presented in a china teacup, with accompanying crockery. It was a sweet sensation ‘guava and fizz posset’, with meringue kisses and warm butter biscuits, that were ever so moreish, swiping Ashley’s leftovers with greedy satisfaction. The butter biscuits were fresh out the oven, crumbling in a ‘melt in your mouth sensation’, while the guava transported me back to Madeira, with its quince-banana like flavor . The sweet and tart taste of the dessert was heavenly and I was almost sorry when it came to an end, but wait oh wait there was one more theatre act to follow. As the actors took their bows and the audience cheered, we too slunk into the evening, bellies full and sated by the generous theatrics of Script For Supper. Oh how content we were…
Have You Ever Had Dinner And A Show In The Same Sitting?
Please note we were guests of Scripts For Supper via Love Pop Ups London, but all opinions expressed are my own and are not affected by complimentary services.
*Gallery Images @ashleysfootprints