New pop-up dining event lets you be part of a play

Teasers: Technician’s Drink and Doctored Egg Dish (above) concocted by chef Aaron Leow are specially created to promote pop-up dining event The Hideaway. They are not on the menu. -- PHOTO: AND SO FORTH
Teasers: Technician’s Drink and Doctored Egg Dish (above) concocted by chef Aaron Leow are specially created to promote pop-up dining event The Hideaway. They are not on the menu. -- PHOTO: AND SO FORTH
Teasers: Technician’s Drink (above) and Doctored Egg Dish concocted by chef Aaron Leow are specially created to promote pop-up dining event The Hideaway. They are not on the menu. -- PHOTO: AND SO FORTH
Teasers: Technician’s Drink (above) and Doctored Egg Dish concocted by chef Aaron Leow are specially created to promote pop-up dining event The Hideaway. They are not on the menu. -- PHOTO: AND SO FORTH

You can be part of a show while eating at a new pop-up dining event held at a location to be revealed only on the actual day

Why watch a show when you can be part of it - and enjoy a good meal to boot?

This is the concept behind new pop-up dining event The Hideaway, organised by local event management company And So Forth. It will be held at a secret location on May 11 and 18.

Co-founder Emily Png, 24, tells Life!: "Wouldn't it be cool to have dinner with Romeo and Juliet? Imagine you are invited to their wedding. At our event, the actors are right next to you and interacting with you. The experience will be very different from watching a show unfold on stage."

She is keeping the theme of the dinner, along with the venue, a secret. Registered guests will receive an SMS on the day, with clues pointing to the location. A restaurant in central Singapore, which seats about 80, will be given a makeover for the night and a chef will whip up a four-course meal. Tickets cost $125 and the price includes one alcoholic drink.

Ms Png, a fashion merchandiser, was inspired by a visit to London pop-up restaurant and art space Gingerline last December.

Held at a secret location along the East London railway line (also known as the Ginger Line because it is represented in orange on the Tube map), the dinner was conceived in 2010 as an experience for people who relish not knowing where or what they would eat beforehand.

She was on a week-long holiday with her fiance, 27-year-old studio manager Stuart Wee, and looking online for an interesting place to dine when she found Gingerline.

"The reason we had such a good time was that it was a secret. We didn't know what to expect and we ended up being pleasantly surprised," she says of the meal, which cost £55 (S$116) and was served in a place with futuristic decor.

In March, the couple set up event management company And So Forth to replicate the experience in Singapore. So far, they have invested more than $20,000 in the business.

And So Forth's team of about 25 comprises young talents in their 20s and early 30s. The script, an interactive narrative built around the idea of adventure, is written by Mingyu Lin, 26, a London-based Singaporean scriptwriter.

Windson Liong, 32, one of three main actors in the show, is approaching his role just as he would any other play. A local freelance actor who has been in more than 35 international productions, he was last seen in Miss Saigon in Sweden last year.

He says: "I have to figure out my character's motivation, why he acts the way he does and his objective. The only difference is that I have to rehearse for different scenarios because my performance hinges on the response of the audience."

The two other leads are played by local actors Daphne Quah, 30, and Edward Choy, 35. Students from Lasalle College of the Arts will double as performers and servers.

While the actors received scripts which they are using as a guideline, there is a lot of room for spontaneity and improvisation, says Liong.

For example, if his character is lost in the jungle and needs help, he would ask the audience for suggestions on what to do. Even if they suggest something ridiculous such as taking a taxi, he has to stay in character. If no one responds to his call for help, he has to figure out how to get out of the jungle himself. The actor is quick to point out that this particular scenario is not from the show.

Ms Png promises the food at the maiden mystery meal will be good too.

The company has hired chef Aaron Leow, 23, for the dinner. The senior chef de partie at new restaurant Pluck, which opens next week in Club Street, describes his cuisine as being Nordic-influenced.

Having started his culinary career when he was 17, he has just returned from a three-month stint at Danish Michelin-starred restaurants such as Noma and Studio. He says: "It was hard work conceptualising the entire menu by myself, but it was fun."

The Hideaway is one of many theme dinners which have popped up recently.

Pop culture website Geek Crusade held its first Game Of Thrones- inspired dinner at Italian restaurant No Menu earlier this month and will be organising a sequel next Monday. Diners dress up as their favourite characters and enjoy a meal consisting of dishes recreated from the fantasy novels and television series.

Private dining outfit My Private Chef will be running a series of pop-up dining events at various historical sites in Singapore, starting from Tanjong Pagar Railway Station next month. Diner en Blanc, a pop-up, invite-only picnic, is set to return later this year.

On the trend, Ms Png says: "People are more adventurous and they are seeking dining experiences that are out of the ordinary."

If the event takes off, she hopes that it will become a regular pop-up series in the future. But she is not interested to open her own restaurant.

"I don't want to be restricted by rent and location," she says. "Every And So Forth event should be fresh and different."

elricat@sph.com.sg

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