Samuel Muston: I love the drama of restaurants. After all, the plate's the thing

 

The first sign that dinner on Wednesday was not to be as other dinners came when a man in a purple velvet suit and tiger mask instructed us all to drink cucumber consommé from the multicoloured shot glasses on the bar opposite the door.

The second was when we entered the dining room, which was low-lit in deepest purple (pictured above) with an electric organ in the middle. Only the bottle of Berrys' Ordinary Claret (yours for £9) was familiar.

The theatrics probably come with the territory, though. I was in a room at the top of the Royal Court Theatre in London, after all, at its new dining-experience-cum-play, Gastronauts. Written by Nessah Muthy and April De Angelis, it is a 95-minute meditation on our dysfunctional relationship with food – and I loved it so much I wanted to take it home in a doggy bag.

Not just because the three-course dinner we were served by the actors as part of the action meant that I didn't have to eat a sandwich before I went in. Nor because it sent up all the bourgeois pretensions people like me propagate (hand-reared, biodynamic carrot, anyone?) or even that at one point, the actors put on cow masks and brought us out a dish of fried locusts to make a point about food unsustainability. No, I loved it because underpinning it all was the acceptance that restaurants are, in essence, a place of theatre.

Of course, some people will argue until they are blue in the gills that this is not the case. Restaurants, they will say, are about savouring the food and supping the wine. A play is about provoking thoughts, entertaining the punters. They are different things. To which I say: you ought to pay more attention to what's going on around you when you're eating your risotto.

I love restaurants because I like eating well-prepared, interesting food with nice people. But I like them even more because they allow me to rubberneck – and do it for hours.

I hate drama in restaurants if I am in some way connected to it, who doesn't? If it is someone in my family having a to-do with the manager over the bill, I want to disappear up my own fundament. But if it is the table in the corner having the ding-dong – well, frankly, I can't get enough of it.

Restaurants are the natural home of the thesp. Each and every one, from local curry house to Michelin-starred dining room, is a sort of stage set. Places where norms of behaviour are bent and reformed; personalities magnified. They are places of artifice and often conceit.

You find all life there. The couple on the first date, the pompous manager, the business-expense luncher, the post-pub lads eating a lamb bhuna. And to watch them is to watch life unfolding; to become a bit actor for a short while in someone else's existence.

Who hasn't, after all, waited for the people at the table next to you to get their coats then lent across the coffee and said: "Who was that?"

Gastronauts is successful because it recognises that inquisitive impulse and kicks it all over the dining room to great effect. And it does so with admirably well-catered food, which, in and of itself, is surely reason enough for a visit.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    Day In a Page

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test