Toby Gilles visited The Imaginarium and found an all new Christmas experience...
You remember Christmas, don’t you?
Presents, glitter, food, music, parties, drinking and merriment?
What if it all disappeared? What if…
SOMEONE STOPPED CHRISTMAS?
Could you and your loved ones continue as normal? Or does the Christmas spirit live within us all?
Fortunately, a group of rebel elves are fighting to save our favourite time of year – and Christmess at the Imaginarium is where you’ll find them.
If you can get through the entrance, that is…
Head elf, Salt, a spritely man-boy with pointy ears, old fashioned clothing and a cane who never once breaks character, tells me and my date we simply wouldn’t have spotted the door if the Christmas spirit wasn’t “within us”. And if mid-November felt too early to notice it was there, by the end of the night the sparkling, made-up faces, giddy dances, festive jazz and cabaret acts, multi-coloured sets, fairy nooks and crannies and portly St Nick had certainly brought it out.
If immersive theatre is your thing this is the perfect place to get involved. If you’re hesitant about dipping your toe into this increasingly popular medium you’ll have just as good a night – if not very different – if you only observe from the golden fringes.
But this reviewer is the type to get involved. Talk to the cast, ask them difficult questions, dance to their tune. They never miss a beat. Stories, jokes and advice, all from their unique character’s point of view – you’ll leave full of spirit and positive I-can-do-anything attitude.
The “set” sparkles too. Walk through the door to discover a host of vintage-looking, colourful pop ups and a wine bar. Christmas presents dangle tantalisingly out-of-reach from the ceiling. A wine bar in the corner serves cheese platters and hot mulled cider.
But head upstairs for the centrepiece. Medieval long tables, adorned with golden candelabras give respite to tired feet – or those who’ve indulged too much. Look into the corners for treats aplenty. Want your face painted with gold and silver glitter? Or maybe a trip into the mysterious Green Fairy’s house? Or do you head straight for St Nick’s office? Your choices determine your experience.
Jazz and cabaret fills the air at every turn. A ‘Miss Robin Red’ delivers her unique take on the Dixie Cups’ Iko, Iko before being joined on stage for some quite stunning duets with the extraordinary-voiced ‘Miss Summer Pearl’ The band is tight, the saxophonist cool and the energy just the right side of chilled and funky. You could stay and enjoy the music alone all evening.
There’s something for the drinkers too. Fancy a rum-based espresso martini so good we forgot to photograph them before they were half finished? How about one of three unique G+Ts? Or, for a real Christmas kick, how about a “St Nicky” – a spicy whisky/port mix that finished my night (in more ways than one…) to perfection? Cocktails flow, albeit from a busy bar that could maybe benefit from more staff. On more than one occasion my partner or I found ourselves separated for 20 minutes while the other went for drinks. A minor gripe but if this is ‘date night’ for you, worth knowing in advance.
A late-night invite into the exclusive Maison Verte, where the tiny, shiny, shimmery Green Fairy lives, takes us to a new plain entirely. “Merlin the Wizard was my guiding light – he’s been asleep in this giant egg for the last 200 years,” she explains. I didn’t expect to think about my life quite so much. “What one quality do you believe you were put on earth to offer?” she asks, as we discuss with our new stranger-friend some of the things we’ve probably never even told each other.
And that’s the point of Christmas isn’t it? Time to be with the ones you care about. Time for a change from the daily grind.
Let’s not let anyone stop Christmas. Thank god for Christmess at the Imaginarium for saving it – and reminding us of all it can be in its own, inimitable way.
by Toby Gilles.
For more information or to book please visit www.christmess.co/invitation