Brighton Fringe 2015
This new show by Interactive Theatre International, the producers of Faulty Towers – The Dining Experience, is a two-hour piece of immersive, interactive and highly improvised comedy theatre that also includes a three-course meal
This interactive dinner was set at the Hove Sussex County Cricket ground, a nice airy venue and fairly easy to find. This site added a realistic feel and as we settled into the, albeit it sparsely decorated, bar to wait for the show to start we could imagine arriving at a real reception. We started to feel the wedding tension and mystery build as various characters started to emerge and mingle with the audience, including a slightly hysterical wedding planner who rushed past a few times wide eyed and panting…all of which helped the audience to draw into the story and set the tone invitingly.
I took my son along who although needed some whispered explanations from me, followed the whole show and laughed a lot, especially during the finale of the Best Man’s speech.
The four strong cast played nine very different skilfully crafted characters and interacted beautifully with the audience, at our dinner tables, allowing us to join in with the ‘make believe’ if we wanted to but not pressuring this either. Fun decorative tables and slowed down moments in the performance also encouraged conversation between audience members on the tables – a really nice way to meet new people. Our table shared our own wedding experiences with each other while enjoying the dinner, which arrived well-presented and of a good quality. The main dish (vegetarian options available) was nice and hot and imaginative. I was impressed. Drinks weren’t included but easy to order, simple but tasty wedding cake was on offer to finish the meal. A little quibble – it would have been good to have had jugs of water on the tables and maybe some baskets of bread and butter.
The actors held their characters strongly and competently and gave a fantastic performance that built in intensity and drama as the dinner progressed, revealing more plot twists and surprises and “became more hilarious” as our table companions commented. My son said he would have liked “more stuff happening” as these were the bits he understood the most, whereas I felt actually they could have allowed more spaces and silences to allow tension in the audience to build, especially at potentially ‘awkwardly comedic’ plot twists. At times the cast tumbled over their words and a little breath and pause here and there would have refined an excellent and bold production. The show worked perfectly around the timing of food arriving and if this was nerve wracking behind the scenes we got no impression of this as the scenes flowed in and out seamlessly.
I personally am a great fan of interactive theatre such as this especially over dinner; it’s a great way to involve your older kids and get them interested in live performance, adding an exciting tension and quality to the performance that makes things much more interesting, allowing more opportunity for improvised action as the cast are exposed and flung into an unpredictable environment. It’s also a great test of a cast and how they work together, as well as how they can stay open and present to the audience, taking what gems they can from this interaction. A warm and inviting combination of live comedy performance and a delicious dinner.