Immersive dining experiences are on the increase. Companies such as Gingerline and Funicular are carving out a space for themselves, offering elaborate menus with a side-order of performance. Supper Freak is the latest entrant in an increasingly crowded market.
The grand Bloomsbury Ballroom has been converted into the Little Paradise, a 1970s Harlem dance hall. There’s a dance-off in progress with a $1,000 prize at stake as well as a chance to appear on ionic TV show Soul Train. The live band pump out familiar 1970s funk and soul classics, from the likes of Aretha Franklin and James Brown, while a drama of ambition and emancipation unfolds between courses.
Director Munotida Chinyanga and the black-led creative team has nailed the dining experience format, but the show could still benefit from some technical and artistic finessing. A problematic sound system renders the dramatic scenes inaudible at times and the sheer numbers of audience/cast/waiters makes the logistics of serving a three-course meal difficult. Despite this, Supper Freak is a lively, uplifting and deeply immersive experience that also manages to addresses issues of race, feminism – and funk.
Rhianna Ilube’s text errs towards the overly earnest at times, highlighting key moments of of black history; the subtleties may be lost on those more intent on revelling. However, the story of teenagers Grace and Angela, played with effervescent glee by Peace Oseyenum and Hailey Nickai Smith, cuts through all this to embody the spirit of optimism and empowerment that defined the era.