And now for something completely different.
Recently I’ve been watching a lot of “Britain’s Got Talent” as I’ve realised that it’s just good ol’ family entertainment. The judges frequently talk about an act surprising them and how much they appreciate that;. not putting myself up there with the BGT judges, but I felt the same when I saw the post on Instagram from Kingdom in Penshurst about an immersive theatrical, dining experience that is being held there around the summer solstice of June 21st. In a world of ‘stuff’, isn’t it great to have an experience?
I was invited to Kingdom to meet with the theatre group’s director, Tobias Cornwell, the son of Pete Cornwell, the man behind the I’ll Be Mother brand and, therefore, Kingdom. Tobias is passionate about theatre and in particular immersive theatre. His theatre group, Get out of my Space (@gooms_production) started when he was still at school with a group of friends and they’ve put on several plays, being one of the last theatre groups to perform at the Victoria Theatre, Southborough before it was demolished.
After taking his dad to a few immersive theatre dining experiences where the food might have been five stars and the theatre not so good, or vice versa, they decided to try it for themselves. Their first foray into this genre of theatre was in the Cellar Bar at The Beacon where the audience stood around watching the play unfold and then dined at the end. The father-son combo’s next step is much bolder.
It all started with a lady called Polly Thomas who had hired Kingdom on the evening of the longest night, 21 June and talked about putting on a short version of the Shakespeare play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Enter stage left, Tobias and a twenty minute production becomes an immersive theatrical dining experience, now on for three nights, not just one.
When I saw the post about a staging of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Kingdom, I practically said out loud, “Well, of course!” It’s a match made in heaven. Kingdom is surrounded by thirteen acres of woodland and has beautiful views which naturally set the scene and then the building itself lends itself so well to this play and type of production - the tree trunk pillars already festooned with fairy lights within and the multi-level space. And then on top of all that, Kingdom is in the I’ll be Mother family and so top quality dining is a given.
Tobias lamented how so many people go to London for the theatre but have to rush their dining first - this is the perfect night out as it combines theatre and dining in a much more relaxed way. And did I mention it’s immersive (never have I typed this word so much!)?
Star and producer Tobias has walked me through the evening but I don’t want to give too much away. I think part of the joy of an evening like this is that you don’t know what’s happening next and that you become absorbed in the experience. It sounds as though it will be very cleverly done though and a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
If we concentrate on the food and drink the evening will pan out as follows
Fizz and canapes on the top floor - that is your starter, in effect.
Dining where the café is now - this will be served ‘family style’ i.e. served in the centre and you help yourself
Dessert - can’t tell you where that will be as it gives away too much!
Of course, you will be able to buy drinks throughout the evening….
If you fancy a different kind of night out, an unusual dining experience whilst taking in some culture, I think this would be a fantastic night out - a real experience. There’s nothing like it locally so please support it! Tickets are £60 and available here.
I wish Tobias and Pete lots of luck and to Polly Thomas too, who will be raising money for Hospice in the Weald on 21 June - a great cause. All proceeds will go to the charity and there’ll be a raffle on the night too.
Tobias is also performing “The 39 Steps” in the new amphitheatre at The Beacon in July.
(Britain’s Got Talent and Shakespeare in a blog about food - never thought that would happen!)