Review: Gingerline's The Grand Expedition
The show takes place in a secret location somewhere in London
The press invitation for Gingerline's new immersive dining experience show The Grand Expedition asks that critics keep a few things secret – namely the location of the performance and the types of cuisine on offer. With that in mind, it's best to say that the piece, set in a trendy and Victoria Line-accessible warehouse, feels like for better and worse a mash-up between Around the World in 80 Days and a silver service wedding dinner – with added clowning and an immaculate design.
There's no real story to speak of: audiences are sat in hot-air balloon baskets attached to 1930s-inspired balloons, and through the magic of projection are taken on a globe-trotting journey, beamed onto the walls around the plush-ly furnished performance space. Throughout the evening, audiences try five courses of delicacies inspired by the different countries where the projections take the hot air balloons.
Coming from being a theatre critic rather than a food expert, it's best to say that the food is very enjoyable, there's a versatile spread for different dietary requirements and there's a lot of it. The variety is also to be commended, and there's a thrill of finding out where the next stop will be on Gingerline's odyssey. The endearingly committed and clowning cast run around the tables dishing out the courses between some choreographed and geographically relevant performances. A lot of this is interactive with diners pulled to their feet to have a good boogy, which is a nice novelty but always a recipe for indigestion.
As might be expected from a rapid, round-the-world expedition there are a few awkward moments, as two-dimensional tropes about countries are trotted out during a couple of the stops.
What really carries the show is projection company Greenaway and Greenaway's panoramic, 360-degree designs with illustrations by Fred Campbell, which genuinely do add a sense of momentum as the balloons lift off and go forth above the globe. At each location, a long luscious, detail-laden vision of the country in question plays out, and it's very easy to get immersed in all the local flavour and music.
The Grand Expedition is a pleasant, protracted evening with a unified aesthetic and some exciting results. The cast comes across as a tad superfluous and is massively overshadowed by the visual wizardry going on around the space – making you almost crave a story to thread through the various dishes and beautiful city spaces.