Diners part of the show in pop-up dinner theatre experience
SINGAPORE — If you ever tire of stiff fine dining, consider going for “fun dining” instead, which promises a playful fusion of theatre and food.
The immersive dining experience comes complete with elaborate sets, specially crafted storylines, professional actors in full costume and a four-course menu tailored to the event’s theme. This all happens in a secret location that is only revealed to guests only 24 hours before the event starts. Depending on the theme, the experience could cost from S$78 to S$108.
Conceptualised by local pop-up events company And So Forth, the total cost of staging the dinner experience is usually in the five-figure range, according to co-founders Emily Png, 27, and Stuart Wee, 30, and each run typically lasts four to six weekends.
The most expensive so far is their upcoming event, The Imaginarium of Disco David, which cost S$50,000 to build, said Wee, who described it as a “visual explosion” and the “most psychedelic and crazy set ever built since we started”.
The creative team comprises 20 people, including set designers, scriptwriters, lighting and audio engineers, graphic designers, chefs and 10 actors.
“This time, the actors will also be with smaller groups of maximum 20 people so interactivity levels are higher and the experience is more intense,” said Png of the event, which will take place over six weekends starting Aug 25.
Since starting out in 2014, past editions have seen an Alice in Wonderland themed dinner, a mystery tale straight out of a noir film and a story set in 1960s Singapore inspired by a novel by local author Goh Poh Seng.
The idea came to the husband-and-wife team after they attended one such event in London.
“We went to a supper club by an events company called Gingerline and we thought it was a cool concept we could bring back to Singapore,” said Wee, who used to work as an audio engineer with bands such as The Sam Willows.
“We were quite nervous when we started because neither of us came from a theatre or (food and beverage) background. No one knew us at all — it was quite a gamble to start an event hoping we wouldn’t make a loss,” added Png, who was previously a fashion merchandiser.
However, the gamble seems to have paid off. The events take place on weekends only and pop up “every few months”. Each run usually lasts for a few weeks. Png said they have been extending their runs to cater to higher demand.
Regular patron Lauren Hendry Parsons, 32, has already been to four of their events so far.
“Unlike other more-formal theatre settings, (And So Forth) are very encouraging to have the audience be part of the overall experience and participate in what is happening. You’re not a passive watcher. You’re part of the story,” said Hendry Parsons, who works in communications for a Singaporean music technology start-up.
She added: “The themed food and cocktails are also part of the 360 (degree) experience that I love. There’s also the surprise of going room to room and not knowing what you’re going to encounter next. That power of surprise is incredible.”
However, not all diner-participants have been as impressed.
“The cast tried their very best to make this an immersive Alice in Wonderland theatre experience, but unfortunately, it was a case of a good concept but lousy execution,” read one review from 2016 on the travel site, Tripadvisor. It continued: “The food was extremely disappointing.”
Wee remains unphased by such comments. He told TODAY: “If you expect Michelin-star food, we try (to offer the best) within our budget. But if you come expecting just the food, this is the wrong place — it’s about the entire experience and our regulars know that. The drinks are awesome, but the experience is amazing.”
“You get front-row seats, and the actors are performing just for you and 20 others. It also takes three months of work for a set design that will last only two months, after which it’s gone, so it’s like an art exhibition,” he added.
The Imaginarium of Disco David will run on Fridays and Saturdays from 25 Aug until 30 Sept. Tickets are priced at S$98 (Fridays) and S$108 (Saturdays). More information is available at https://www.andsoforth.com.sg/disco-david/