Gingerline’s latest culinary odyssey mixes mind-blowing food with some iffy national stereotypes
Trying to write a review of ‘The Grand Expedition’ might well be a tremendous exercise in point-missing because Gingerline’s immersive dinner theatre show is all about the joyful thrill of surprise. You’re texted a secret address. Then, after a bit of excitedly milling about in a car park, you get one of the night’s best moments: the one where you step inside a vast space that’s been artfully designed to transport you to a retro world, complete with ’30s style aeronauts, gasp-worthy set pieces and endearing vintage picture-book-style illustrated projections. Oh, and enough food to put Enid Blyton’s most extravagant midnight feast to shame.
Gingerline creators Suzannah Montfort and Kerry Adamson have excelled in creating something that both looks heart-tuggingly, nostalgically gorgeous, and somehow manages to function with military precision. Five carefully tuned courses find their way to each table, through a hubbub of dancing, miming and projected storytelling. They’re designed to be (very mildly) interactive, which means unwrapping an adorable checked cloth parcel of bread, or having a go at artfully arranging dumplings on a plate. The real interaction comes courtesy of a chorus of performers, who invite booze-primed audience members to play a series of increasingly riotous games with them using a series of non-verbal signals – it’s like being in a scout camp for tipsy people, wrangled by outlandishly dressed mime artists.
‘The Grand Expedition’ is tremendously good at sounding some notes: ‘joy’, ‘surprise’ and ‘nostalgia’ are there in abundance, with a side-serving of ‘yum’. Perhaps because of the child-like framing, what it doesn’t offer is much to chew on. There’s no real storyline, and the interactive elements are mostly just larking about, rather than feeding into any greater narrative. Depending on your perspective (and/or level of drunkenness) its worldview might feel shortsighted, rather than endearingly naive, too.
The picture books for kids that it sources its aesthetic from aren’t always innocent: they’re there to inculcate the next generation with their parents’ worldviews, and in the golden age of children’s fiction, those worldviews were unashamedly colonialist. Here, different countries are portrayed by an almost all-white cast frolicking about in sexed-up versions of their national get-ups; painting-by-numbers cultural stereotypes that are retro in all the wrong ways. The ‘Japanese’ section is something to behold, and not in a good way.
In its best moments, ‘The Grand Expedition’ feels vivid and transportative: a great deal of care has gone into almost every moment, from its ever-shifting wall projections and its emotive soundtrack to its cloud-painted toilets. If they put the same care into the narratives it sells, it could really take flight.
|Venue name:||Secret Location|
Average User Rating
2.8 / 5
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We are not allowed to share any details of the event - so I will just say this is a beautifully crafted experience down to the smallest detail. Delicious food and amazing performers. Come dressed in your best aeronaut gear as you will go on a flight that is out of this world.
We thoroughly enjoyed our evening on the Grand Expedition. It was a feast for all the senses. At first I was put off that our group of 4 would have to share a table with 6 strangers. I must admit that the people we spent the evening with totally contributed to the excellence of the evening. We so enjoyed meeting the others and felt the entire matching was serendipitous. The food was all lovely and presentation and delivery was truly unique. It was a very memorable evening that we 4 Canadians considered a highlight of our holiday.
Reviews are interesting as people are generally quite moved to express an opinion if they had a terrible time. I hope the clutch of poor review here don't put people off as it would be a shame to miss out on this. I think you have to be pretty cynical to not enjoy it, we went as a group of 10, that certainly added to my enjoyment as I knew everyone on my table. I am in my mid-40s and have seen a lot of theatre and eaten a lot of meals - I thought the food was superb and it is a bit unfair to pick on the sticks of cucumber as this was one element of a 'british picnic'. The vegetarian/venga food was imaginative and I did not feel palmed off with a lesser meal as I often do. I had a fabulous evening having gone with no expectations. I can't really give it less than full marks as it delivered on all fronts. An immersive dining and theatrical experience that will not be forgotten.
All I can say is that I had an amazing time! Music, scenes, dance, food. Performers were brilliant and food was delicious. Really clever use of lighting and narration. If you are joining, please remember it is immersive, so expect to be asked to participate!!
Agree with all points below. Food was awful and wine was bitter and distasteful. The actors probably are great at their jobs but again, really awful production/directing. I would most definitely not recommended, it was the most awkward I've been to in the whole of London in my 25 years of living here!
Having been to Chamber of Flavours, we were really excited about going to the Grand Expedition. Boy we shouldn't have been. It was awful. I agree with everything from the reviews below. The food was poor. The acting 'scenes' were so childish and un-entertaining I was embarrassed for them. And unless you are a large group you have to share your table for the whole evening with other guests. Save your money and avoid.
Food was terrible, cheaply made, and luke warm in temperature. You know things are not looking good if you get served a stick of cucumber with celery salt as part of your starter. The interactive theatre was on a par with a bad children’s party. The mime ‘actors’ pull you up to participate in conga lines, silly gestures and awkward dancing. Save your money and avoid feeling ripped off. Amateur and not worth wasting hours of your precious life. Can I give no stars?
I disagree with the time out review. This gingerline experience was mediocre at best. Not worth the visit.
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