There are many ways to enjoy the art of dining. And one of them, at least according to ANDSOFORTH, is to literally bring art to dining.
Inspired by similar UK outfits such as Gingerline, ANDSOFORTH producers Stuart Wee and Emily Png presented the latest instalment in their series of immersive dining experience: The Imaginarium of Disco David, taking diners straight back to the 70s as they groove their way into a colourful world of boogieing, inventive food, and theatre performance all through the night.
Immersive dining is still a pretty new concept to Singapore, but ANDSOFORTH, being one of the very first companies to localize it, has been hard at work bringing in some of the craziest and most original themes to the experience since 2014 (including an adaptation of Goh Poh Seng’s If We Dream Too Long and an interpretation of Alice in Wonderland) This time around, The Imaginarium of Disco David is set in an asylum, where its star patient is the eponymous Disco David. Directed and choreographed by Matheus Ting and Siti Maznah, audience members take a trip straight into Disco David’s mind, visiting a series of rooms designed by Sebastian Chun and unpacking the quirky characters (dressed by Riyan Haffys) that represent his psyche and history, in all their raucous colourful debauchery, along with of course, the actual food, prepared by Street Cooks by Jason Ang.
The first of these characters was of course, Disco David himself (Lian Sutton) – an over the top epitome of disco itself clad in a big afro wig, a forest of chest hair, a shiny purple suit (with bell bottoms and even platform shoes. Introduced in the purple-hued ‘Disco Limbo’ bar, David explained his goal of proving that disco is not dead, befriending many of the audience members before engaging in an impressive dance off with challenger and friend B Boy Goliath (Oneskee), a teaser of the many innovative rooms still to come. Winning (obviously), we toasted him with a tasty chocolate jello liquer shot from the bar, before moving on to the next room.
Quite literally sliding into the next room, we entered ‘The Ocean of Desire’, a ballpit of ‘blue balls’ lorded over by the Guardian of Desire (Zaaki Nasir), and if you already caught and enjoyed the innuendo there, then you’ll be glad to know that the rest of the room is themed around similar sexual euphemisms, with the (plastic) six-pack ab Guardian teaching audience members about sexual tension and the art of resisting temptation. A ballpit is exactly the kind of environment that took us straight to our childhoods, and many of the audience members immediately regressed to their earlier years and began immersing themselves in the balls and tossing them at each other, before we were given the first meal of the night – a prawn and purple cabbage wrap acting as a salad to start off the actual dining experience, tantalizing our tastebuds to get our appetites going.
Shooing us into the next room, our eyes adjusted to the sudden brightness we experienced, and we cast our gaze to the elegant Swan Ballerina (Gabrielle Rae Sammy). Dressed in a huge, detailed headdress complete with tiny white birds and butterflies, as well as a leotard/tutu ballet outfit, the Swan Ballerina was a strict disciplinarian, showing off her ballet skills as she maintained a full split in front of us while casually chatting, and the ‘hospital staff’ arrived to serve the next dish – A slab of cod cooked well with a yummy squid ink mash, topped with a slice of crispy seaweed.
Naturally, the next colour-theme was black, and we were led by Black the Benevolent (Natalie Koh) into a pitch black room, where we couldn’t even see past our hands. Frightening at first, this was actually our favourite room as we sat down at a table in the darkness and were presented with what seemed to be a claypot rice bowl with mushrooms and very tender meat. But instead of digging in immediately, we were tasked with a visualization exercise. In the darkness, one loses one’s sense of sight, but in return, heightens all others. As such, prior to eating, we brought the bowl of rice close to our nose and inhaled, trying to identify all the ingredients that went into it and appreciating it in a whole new light, tickling our tastebuds even further. As for our other senses, our ears were tantalized by Black’s emotional story about being a child of divorce, before she sang an original song beautifully, as Dorothy Png and Whee Cheng’s star-like lights that lined the walls grew brighter as she sang, a nice touch that added theatrical impact to the entire performance.
Finally, we reached the last room of the imaginarium, and arguably the most energetic one of all. In Big Mama’s house, we tackled Disco David’s family affairs and mother-father issues, as we were introduced to Big Mama (Laanya Asogan), the boss of a troupe of showgirls known as the Cunning Cabaret. It’s all campy fun, with a big showy number at the start that really showed off each of the girls’ vocal chops and flexibility, Chicago-style and incredibly entertaining, as we ended off our meal with a s’mores and brownie dessert, even with a little surprise centre with the use of popping candy to give it an entire plethora of textures and flavours.
The Imaginarium of Disco David is one of those shows you can only fully enjoy when you allow yourself to let go of your doubts and fears and go with the flow, participating completely in each and every weird schtick the show throws at you and become part of the experience itself. ANDSOFORTH is certainly attracting the right kind of crowd, with plenty of people ready and willing to become infected with disco fever and join in the crusade to save disco (enthusiastically dancing along to the ‘funkadelic’ moves we were taught along the way).
Although still pretty new to most Singaporeans, some have already embraced the concept completely, celebrating events such as birthdays with a trip to a production (and once, even a wedding!). We’re thoroughly convinced that there’s definitely a market here for alternative forms of theatre to continue to thrive, and given the right support, ANDSOFORTH could really make a splash on the international scene with the brilliant creativity that’s gone into their shows and the full commitment to the performances displayed by the cast. Shows like The Imaginarium of Disco David are prime material for an unforgettably fun night out, a unique, outrageous experience like no other you’ll find in Singapore, and certainly worth experiencing for the sheer spectacle of it all.
Performance attended 1/12/17, 9pm.
The Imaginarium of Disco David will be held at a mysterious location that will be revealed to ticketholders (close to Toa Payoh), and has one show remaining on 2nd December. To book tickets, visit their website here
Although its run is ending soon, ANDSOFORTH is set to return with an all new concept and theme next February, so look out for that on their website