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Review: 'Tableau Vivant' by Patrick Hussey



There is a intriguing fad at the minute for throwing performance and food together. The Aero Banquet by The White Blackbird and 'The Pale Blue Door' for example. On Saturday night I attended the latest collision of art and eats, the mysterious Tableau Vivant.

To be very honest I wasn't sure what to expect, the press release hinted at recreated paintings and theatrical goings on.

'Tableau Vivant is a dinner concept inspired by the idea of bringing back to life a popular 19th Century social amusement. The term Tableau Vivant describes a striking group of suitably costumed actors or models carefully posed and often theatrically lit, in a representation of a well-known painting or sculpture.'

When I arrived at the neat, white space on Redchurch street there was a building sense of mystery. Before me was a perfectly laid table for fifteen, a trolley packed with wine bottles and at the far end of the room fluttered an intriguing, white curtain.

Somewhat early my date and I sat at our places at the head of the table and waited for the show to begin. Soon the table filled with a trendy, talkative set of guests and generous shots of absinthe were doled out.

I asked the lady opposite us if they knew what to expect. 'No!' she said chugging her green fairy and smiling 'But I've heard the theme is Olympia.'

Suddenly the room darkened and scrolling words appeared on the white curtain. Several arcane sentences later a bright light illuminated the curtain. Before our eyes appeared the brazen, and it has to be said, rather pneumatic silhouette of a naked woman.

I looked down the table and saw every one of the fifteen guests gawking from the shadows. Suddenly masked waiters appeared from behind the curtain carrying the first course, a tasty watermelon gazpacho.

The wine and conversation flowed. The next course arrived, an adventurous chicken dish in chocolate sauce. Just as I was wrapping my head round the complex flavours more of those laser projected words appeared. A masked figure then started pulling back the curtain. Ah, I thought now I get it.

There was the nude model, lying back and recreating Manet's famous Olympia.

You might think the collision of food and nudity might put your appetite off but not at all. It was, quite simply, interesting and certainly got everyone talking.

That in the end was the real pleasure of Tableau Vivant. The performance and food were well done but the best thing was being thrown into a situation with people you didn't know, your conversation sparked by wine and surprise.

It was entertaining, an absolute winner date (conversation simply cannot fail) and at forty quid a head with wine and three courses a bit of a bargain.

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