BWW Review: JOURNEY TO THE UNDERWORLD, Pedley Street Station

BWW Review: JOURNEY TO THE UNDERWORLD, Pedley Street Station

BWW Review: JOURNEY TO THE UNDERWORLD, Pedley Street StationImmersive dining theatre seems to be in the in-thing in the capital at the moment. The result can be painful performances with even worse food, but happily Journey To The Underworld is an fun evening that combines a playful, if simplistic story, with excellent fodder.

This the second such show from Funicular Productions, which combines the novelty of eating dinner cooked by Masterchef The Professionals finalist Louisa Ellis abroad a luxury train while witnessing the tragic story of conductor Claude and his desperate quest to rescue his love Sabine from the clutches of the underworld of The Dark One after her father sold her soul.

The audience enters the station platform, complete with bar staffed by characters in long black robes and masks. Lighting is flickering and red with cobwebs hanging and eerie music playing in the background. Here we are introduced to Claude, a shackled and dishevelled-looking Chris Heany.

Aboard the train, the story of Claude's lost love Sabine and quest for her return is explained. Food then starts to arrive. What is very well managed, in that time is given to enjoy the food, rather than rushing through it to get to the performance sections.

In these productions, the food cannot be an afterthought. In another partnership with Masterchef alumni, Funicular have turned to the impressive talents of Louisa Ellis to create a thoughtfully constructed and very seasonal menu.

It consists of a four-course extravaganza beginning with a beautifully smooth butternut squash volute, followed by light and fluffy black garlic gnocchi, which comes with the double flavour hit of wild mushrooms and truffle. Perfectly cooked and succulent pan-seared guinea fowl comes with the delicious, but slightly pretentiously named, celeriac 'textures'. Braised leek and Arran mustard sauce complete the dish.

Dessert is a deeply rich dark chocolate ganache with honey ice cream and a fantastic bee pollen tuile. The food is excellent, with inventive vegetarian and vegan options available, but temperature is a bit of an issue in the cold train carriage.

As a dining experience, this show is a great success, but takes priority over the theatrical element. We meet various characters along the way, such as the seductive Gatekeeper, who performs a semi-striptease along the aisle and The Dark One himself, who is as frightening as the carnations that dot the tables.

This is not an unnerving experience, nor is a very inventive or innovative story, but all performers throw themselves into it with great enthusiasm. Chris Heany's Claude is the standout, with great passion and unwavering interaction with the audience.

There is audience participation, but it is unchallenging and fun. Much will depend on the other audience members and how much they are willing to throw themselves into the spirit of the show.

Animated projection on the carriage windows is well designed, particularly before the journey starts, where ghostly fingers write warnings to the travellers on steamed-up glass.

What is clear is that the show has been designed specifically to attract the Halloween market. The beautiful train carriage is bedecked with cobwebs and eerie lighting, but frights and shocks are lacking. There is an absence of trepidation and even when the audience is blindfolded, the heart rate does not rise.

This is not the show to come to if you want to be scared out of your wits; it is not a horror show nor is it a moving theatrical experience, but it is a fun, entertaining and different event with great food.

Journey To The Underworld is at Pedley Street Station until 10 November

Photo Credit: Chris Lobina

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From This Author Aliya Al-Hassan

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