The Secret Island is the newest offering from Immersive dining trailblazers Gingerline. It follows the premise of Gingerline’s previous events – at a designated date and time you need to be waiting by any station stop on a particular tube (or overground) line. A text will arrive with directions to a top secret location and on arrival you will walk into a fully-built immersive world for a dining experience like no other.
For The Secret Island, you walk straight into the hustle and bustle of Singapore’s docks. The scene would not look out of place in an Indiana Jones film – piles of wooden crates are a backdrop to wooden bridges and boats which provide transport through a sea of cracked and broken glass. Dock hands with poles dash to and fro as bemused patrons purchase drinks and settle into their boats to await their passage from the ferryman to their tour of Singapore through the ages.
The audience forms a hearty band of ‘intrepid explorers’ (dressing up is encouraged but not mandatory) as they venture through a series of spaces that have been kitted out to reveal Singapore’s best-kept secrets. We start at the docks and travel through a dark and leafy jungle and a lively street market, we sit on the dock of a golden bay and sip cocktails, visit a traditional Peranakan house, and head to a futuristic roof top bar – all in a secret location in London. Each location that we travel to has a course or beverage relating to the location you are in, and by the end of the evening you’ve had a full meal and a very full journey through Singapore’s history.
Gingerline bill this as being mostly experimental but this event is done by a confident hand – and it’s extremely successful as a result. The food is great; it’s delicious and it also matches its surroundings perfectly. The sets are cleverly designed and all of them inspire a moment of surprise and wonder as you enter into them. The characters you meet along your travels are endearing and entertaining – and it’s hard to find fault with this as both a dining and a theatrical venture.
It’s equally hard to pick a favourite scenario – in the jungle, a salad starter is ‘picked’ from plastic baubles hanging from the trees in the overgrowth; the next room gives us the streets of modern Singapore where neon lights assault the sense and we eat street food spring rolls served by a lively street cook. The room is authentic down to the last detail – we sit at cheap café tables and the mirrors on the walls make the city lights seem as if they go on forever, giving a really rather beautiful illusion of a big, smoggy city (this particular room is very Blade Runner – in a very good way!)
Further rooms let us enjoy a tasty cocktail of Rye Whiskey, Lapsan Souchoung tea, lemon and ginger liqueur whilst dangling our feet off of a boardwalk and over golden ‘water.’ There’s a beautiful sense of the skies darkening and rain drops falling without us ever needing to get wet and just as I’m getting lost in the whimsy and lulling beauty of this room, we’re away and dining in a family home for our main course. The actresses in this scene are great; funny, intriguing and very charismatic. They chat away with you as you enjoy your delicious traditional Peranakan dish – and once you’ve finished, you head off to a futuristic rooftop bar as you eat desert and surround yourself with the sights and sounds of Singapore in the future.
It’s a fantastic journey and it’s surprisingly educational. You do get a very good idea of the different stages of Singapore’s history, and how much change the country experienced over the years. Even the area ‘outside’ of the performance is delightful. You are welcome to come early and spend time drinking amongst the previously mentioned docks and wooden boats – but if you take a later showing, you are ushered out after your show finishes, so be warned that you must make the most of your time ‘at sea.’
The Gingerline almost apologize for the uncertain and untested premise of this show – but they needn’t do. It’s pricey at £50 a ticket but, in my option, this show is worth every penny.
Gingerline’s The Secret Island has finished its run, but you can find out about upcoming events here. You must be quick when tickets go on sale; they always sell out.
Note: In our group of three we had two dining with the vegetarian options – all three of us found the food delicious and they do well to keep the veggie option perfectly in line with the food theme for the room.