Medieval Banquet ~ St Katherine’s Docks ~ 05.01.2018

This was an unexpected surprise, and whilst I’m not really here for restaurant reviews, I’ll make an exception for this because the event is more about the entertainment than the food, but I probably ought to briefly mention the dining anyway.

I’ll hold my hands up and say as someone who really enjoys the history of music and especially the Renaissance and the culture that goes with it, I had my reservations about this night. But I needn’t have worried – in the end what was offered up was a fun night of mess hall dining as the entertainment continued in the centre of the space.

So let’s start with the layout and dining element of the night – a central performance area with blocks of seating either side. Each seating section comprised two long tables and had its own serving wench, who brought the four courses; soup, cheese and ham platters, chicken and vegetable dinner, and slices of fruit pie. Prior to attending (and again on the night) the venue checked for allergies, intolerences or other dietary preferences so they can substitute options for non-carnivores if you advise them when booking. The food was simple but nice and was accompanied by free-flowing ale and wine all evening.

The entertainment is where the night comes into its own. As you enter the venue, singers, dancers and jugglers are wandering around the main space, performing in turn as crowd gather around the costume hire and various trinket stands before taking their seats. During the event, there are structured times for serving a course, allowing people some time for eating, then a section of performance.

The singing was superb – both solo and choral numbers from all singers were strong on the night. The contortionist was unbelievable good and I still can’t quite get my head around some of the bending. The juggler was very entertaining – I was most impressed when he was juggling upside down using his feet – rather incredible.

But the main event is the sword fighting, and that didn’t disappoint. The knights encourage their supporters to get involved and the crowd went with it. Up close theatre combat is always fun and this was no exception.

The night at the Medieval Banquet comes in at £50 per head for adults, and all things considered I think it provides good value for money. £50 would be more than I would pay for a meal generally, but if you factor in the entertainment and drinks being included then I think this is more than fair. Still, if that stretches your budget there are often group deals for more than 4 people – family discounts and general group “6 for 4” deals, so keep an eye out for those on their webpage.

The Medieval Banquet runs all year but timings are seasonal, so check their site for event details and any special event news.

 

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Vamos Cuba! ~ Sadler’s Wells Theatre ~ 11.08.2016

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My first foray into the world of live dance performances was an explosion of colour, noise and energy, in the way you would expect of a Latin dance extravaganza.

Even with the small grasp of Spanish that I have, the humour and passion shone through as the loose narrative progressed. A collection of people stuck in an airport, trying to get to Havana, dreaming of what they’ll see contrasting with the stark reality of their situation.

The show mines from the rich seams of Cuban culture, with a fantastic range of musical stylings on offer from the live band and two principle vocalists – who were all absolutely superb throughout the evening.

The dancing I cannot offer much critique of as I have absolutely no knowledge of what is technically good dancing and what might be poor technique and execution, but I suspect much of the audience will be as qualified as I am so – on the basis that everyone moved to the beat, the costumes were stunning and the movement was liquid smooth – I would say it was a very fun show to watch and would happily see this cast perform in other shows again.

What struck me most about the performance was how international a show like this can be. It was a timely affirmation of how important body language and non-vocal expression can be when communicating. Without language barriers, it really frees up the performance to attract people from all walks of life and from every inch of the globe. Humour unites us all, and nonverbal delivers the message clearly.

Vamos Cuba can be seen at Sadler’s Wells Theatre until 21st August.

 

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