It’s not often you get to experience something which reinvents the traditional and customary, however Dining with Alice was just that – a remarkable theatrical culinary extravaganza.
I like to think of it as the closest you will ever come to actually walking through Wonderland.
Staged by Arts organisation Artichoke, the brains behind the Sultan’s Elephant and La Machine, it was a fabulous evening of escapism. Designed, I would imagine, to make us feel as if we really had fallen down the rabbit hole.
The event – and event it was – was staged in the grounds of Elsing Hall, a beautiful 15th Century manor house in the heart of Norfolk. From the moment we crossed the bridge into the grounds we were transported to somewhere, someplace ELSE.
We were confronted with illusion, tricks of perspective (a diminutive and slightly larger Alice playing croquet), choreography and set piece acting.
Part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, it was, depending on your point of view either a dramatic retelling of the Mad Hatters Tea Party with the audience as dinner guests, or a fabulous four course meal with surreal entertainment.
At each course you were presented with little riddles, jokes and intriguing table decorations. You were never quite sure what was edible and what was not.
It’s difficult to explain how the evening works, without ruining it for future ‘guests’, suffice to say from the opening course of Mock Turtle Soup through to the flamboyant dessert it was a bizarre. exciting, ride through Lewis Carroll’s imagination.
It was fantastical in every sense of the word and even a light shower during the Queen of Hearts’ musical entertainment failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd.
Glancing around you saw fellow perplexed diners, giggling gently to themselves or having weird conversations with Tweedle Dum or Dee, the White Queen or Duchess. The guests/audience who played along, got the most out of the evening. I followed the white rabbit and I’m glad I did…