The Grand Expedition, Gingerline
Photo: Peter Chamberlain
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Review

Gingerline: The Grand Expedition

3 out of 5 stars

The immersive gastronomy legends return home with a pleasurable remix of their globe-hopping 2018 hit

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Time Out says

Immersive dining gurus Gingerline were a major cultural force in London throughout the ’10s but seemingly vanished during the pandemic. As it turns out, the company – the brainchild of producers Suz Mountford and Kerry Adamson – had relocated to Asia for a stretch and simply chosen not to bang on about it to folks back home.

Now they’re back, and it’s very much as if they’d never been away: ‘The Grand Expedition’ is literally a remount of their last full show. 

A reworked one, mind. The conceit behind the Laura Partridge-directed piece is that we (the audience) are Phileas Fogg-style Victorian explorers, travelling the globe by hot air balloon. The ‘tour’ is to the countries our wind-blown dirigibles land in – which we then sample the cuisines of. It’s a flexible idea: this incarnation of the show simply visits different countries to the original one. 

Spoilering the menu or locations visited is frowned upon, but in essence we sit in our balloon gondolas (stylised tables of six) and proceed to ‘travel the world’, which we do via Fred Campbell’s gorgeous projected animations that wrap around the walls of the large room the show takes place in. It’s probably fine to reveal that we start off in London, but it’s very much not our London; rather a twinkling fantasy of an idyllic mediaeval-slash-Victorian city, surrounded by mountains and monoliths. Campbell’s illustrations – beautifully animated by Greenaway & Greenaway – are definitely the show’s most delightful aspect. When our balloons ‘take off’, the visuals alone provide a sense of movement: we almost believe we’re flying.

What follows is a very slick, very U-rated trip, wherein the most impressive feat is to piece together a succession of courses that make no obvious sense together into a whole that gels via the magic of storytelling.

The food, by regular Gingerline collaborator Jenny McNeill, is good. Not virtuosically so, but it’s nicely done and decently imaginative. There is absolutely no question that for the same price you could get a better meal elsewhere in London (it starts at £99 per head with drinks extra). But you could certainly get a worse meal in London for the same price, and more to the point, nobody goes into a Gingerline show thinking they’ve signed up for a regular restaurant. 

Beyond the terrific projections and the food, the theatrical side of the show boils down to a series of smiling, face-painted performers posing as the inhabitants of whatever country we happen to be visiting. Essentially indulging in light acrobatics with a bit of audience interaction, it’s gentle to the point of banality at times. In one country, we were invited to watch politely as two natives aimiably tossed a hat to each other. It kind of feels like a high-end theme park restaurant. Nobody’s expecting ‘Hamlet’, but I don’t see how more tangible storytelling and worldbuilding would have hurt anyone. But it has to be said that our tablemates found all of this very charming. Judge Gingerline by Punchdrunk standards and it’s pretty thin, but this is a lot livelier than a trip to your local bistro.

‘The Grand Expedition’ isn’t an earthshaking comeback, and part of that is down to the fact there are simply more people doing what Gingerline do these days. But it’s a pleasurable evening that announces Gingerline’s return with effortless assurance, to a supportive home crowd. They’ve successfully tested the water: hopefully we get a new show next time.

Details

Event website:
www.gingerline.co.uk/
Address
Price:
£99-£170. Runs 2hr
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