When I was staying with ibis last week for some festive fun, they surprised me with a secret itinerary. Times to be at various locations and then fun would be sprung upon us. I absolutely loved my time staying at the ibis Blackfriars last week and wandering through the Southbank Christmas market, but the absolute cherry on top of that weekend was getting to attend Christmess.
I have trouble describing just exactly what Christmess is. It’s a supper club. It’s a piece of interactive theatre. It’s a jazz concert. It’s a bit of cabaret. It’s messy and it’s a whole lot of fun.
This was the second year that Christmess has been around. First you have to make your way to the Imaginarium in Southwark. Then you start the evening by entering the downstairs of “Nicky’s Imaginarium” and get to browse the quirky delights that are on sale and have a few drinks at the bar. You are also mingling with a few elves and costumed characters. Slowly, they start to bring each individual group upstairs. We were measured up by head elf, Salt, and then set free to join a table.
You sit on long benches and the food is served family style and communally. But before the waiters started to bring out the dishes, we listened to a few jazzy numbers and heard some speeches from both Salt (the head elf) and Jingle Bells (Santa and Mrs Claus’ love child). Everyone had a shot of fireball whisky at their respective seats and all 150 ish of us, did the shots together when Salt led us in toast of a riotous Christmas or a “Christmess”.
For this kind of interactive promenade supper club, I had really low expectations of the food but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was all incredible. It was catered by Slap Ya Papa which is a supper club that focuses on Creole and New Orleans style dishes always served communally. It was my first non-plantbased meal in months, and I was glad that if I was going to differ from my aspiring environmental principles on occasion that it was from them. The one dish that really stood out to me was a cheesy, spicy corn salad. I have no idea what all was in it, but I couldn’t get enough of it. The potato salad and their brussels sprouts dish were also both excellent.
The performers were all from Marbles & Ware and once dinner was going they really set the tone of the event. They encouraged people to dance on the tables, spoon fed others dessert and led the course of raucous merriment. They all really throw themselves into the performances and since the event lasts from about 6:30 pm-11:30pm they must be absolutely exhausted by the time they get home. As I feel at a lot of interactive theatre events, I get “fomo” (fear of missing out) sometimes. I want to experience everything, I don’t want to miss out on any little bit. But that’s supposed to be part of the fun of such an event. Piecing together with your friends everything else that was going on that you perhaps didn’t see.
For example, I never got to go into the Green Fairy’s lair with her. I did, however, get to go in with the big man himself, into St Nick’s office. And it was the highlight of the evening. Nick had us do another fireball shot and then play games. Everything from the After 8 Face Race to drawing challenges to singing. It was all about unleashing your inner child and making the holidays fun again. I absolutely loved it.
But the whole evening was filled with surprises. At one point, after everyone was up and dancing on the tables, Jingle Bells led a mambo/limbo mash-up and you ended up in another secret room “the after party” where the band had relocated and set up a feathery, snowy nightclub for dancing the night away. Some of the performers sung as well, and the vocals of the lovely “Minty” elf were especially impressive.
I really enjoyed myself and the performers all did an excellent job trying to make everyone lighten up and enjoy themselves and not feel self-conscious. It might not be for the shiest amongst us, as it’s hard to be a wallflower at something like this; but it’s great to push your boundaries if you’re usually introverted.
The only slight criticism I have, is one that I often have of performances like this: I feel like the atmosphere could have been established a bit earlier and could have gotten everyone a bit more excited from minute zero. I felt like when we were downstairs waiting to be led upstairs there was a lot of confusion and there could have been more interaction with all the performers. But once the doors were thrown open upstairs all the fun began.
There are still a few midweek tickets if you want to try to snap them up now. But if you can’t go this year, I’m sure it will back next year. Tickets start at £35 for lunch or £40 for dinner.
***I was a guest of ibis as they surprised me with tickets, but all thoughts and opinions are forever my own.***