There’s always been something a little magical about The Vaults, the immersive theatre hidden on the graffiti plastered Leake Street. And, now with a magic carpet whizzing around the underground tunnel, it’s hardly surprising all the Disney lovers and immersive dining fiends are flocking to the theatre with their bags stuffed full of dirty laundry…
Okay, you’re probably wondering what the heck I’m talking about. And even I was a little apprehensive when I hop, skip and jumped onto my magic carpet (well, overcrowded overground train) to Waterloo for an evening of immersive theatrics, inspired by all things Aladdin and the Genie.
The wonderfully imaginative Darling & Edge, who brought us Londoner’s the brilliant adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, returned to bring us another fiery theatrical adult pantomime: Aladdin and The Feast of Wonders. Although things seem a little different, one thing is for sure though: Following the death of the emperor, the lovely little princess is on the look out for a potential suitor and has until midnight to find the lucky sod. And it could be you so buckle in and prepare to be thrown fully into the wildly wonderful theatrics of The Vaults.
Right, so let’s reverse back to the laundry part. Obviously in the Disney original, there certainly wasn’t a laundrette making its way into the narrative, but it’s just one of the multiple ways this version detracts from Disney’s powerful frameworks.
As soon as you embark on your journey through Agrabah, you’re thrusted onto Scrubbers Lane and into the widows’ laundrette, home to poor ol’ Aladdin’s Ma, Widow Hanky. In this gloriously unexpected reimagining, Widow Hanky drives the narrative forward as your host for the evening. She’s a character you can’t help but falling hopelessly in love with, namely down to the fiery sarcasm, rip-roaring humour and audience interaction. Yep, that does mean you might be subject to wandering onto the stage and doing a mini catwalk performance or showing off your ‘finest’ talent, just like my poor accompanying partner.
From mother to son, the bond between Aladdin and his Ma is uncanny, with twists and puns thrown in for good measure. Nestled with a little crudeness and menial motherly mocking along the way, it’s all in good spirit for helping Aladdin bag himself the honour of being the princess’ suitor. Of course though, Aladdin isn’t of the hierarchal status
By now, you’re probably wondering where the ‘feast’ of the adventure fits in. But, for all those looking to be the princess’ suitor can indulge in a feast fit for only the finest prince. To get the evening going, you’ll find Widow Hanky handing out her ‘noods’. Don’t let your mind drift too far into a dirty spiral as these noods involve chopsticks, veggies and a big helping of sesame seed broth, which we gobbled away at as our hostess busted out some moves on the stage floor and cracking some jokes about poor Aladdin.
As the evening progressed, we ventured on up to the Sultan’s Palace, in true royal style, for an indulgent banquet feast. To begin the magnificent feast, we dived into ‘a romantic vegetable’, a medley of coffee roasted organic carrots, verbena harissa yoghurt, pickled purple carrots and oat crumble, with a sprinkling of coriander oil. This dish was super light and a nice mix of textures, it went down well washed with a jewel cocktail.
In true feast style, we were soon presented with lavish serving platters and bowls of rich beef tagine (or oozy jackfruit tagine for veggies like me), spiced rice laced with apricots and veggies, shiraz salad, and pineapple and mint salsa. I think we can all agree when you’re off to an immersive dinner, the food is normally a little overlooked by the theatrics and drama surrounding you and can be incredibly disappointing. However, this felt a whole lot different, and it seemed evident time and thought had gone into the preparation and crafting of each dish. The banquet style seating and sharing affair brought together different groups and tied into the interactiveness of the performance. Everything from the stewed ‘pork’ jackfruit tagine, rich with smoky spices and tender meat-like texture, all the way down to the burst of sweetness from pineapple salsa against the cooling fresh mint. Personally, the dessert didn’t wow me, a vegan attempt at a rose and cardamon mahalabia topped with toasted pistachios and dried rose petals. This was down to personal taste as I’m not the biggest rose fan, but my partner lathered it up.
While the food was intriguing and fulfilling, it’s the theatrics that wins over your heart. I don’t want to spoil the ending too much, but if you strip down the hilarious lip-syncing and somewhat questionable dancing, you’ll find this story delves deeper into incredibly important issues which go unsaid in typical Hollywood, and even pantomime, narratives. So, what’re you waiting for? Uncover a whole new world at The Vault’s this winter.