MEET OUR THEA AWARD RECIPIENT FOR OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT: IMMERSIVE DINING EXPERIENCE LIMITED BUDGET
Absurdities Vol. 1, Andsoforth Singapore Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement-Immersive Dining Experience Limited Budget Overview
On a street corner in the bustling traditional neighborhood of Farrer Park, the Asylum Coffeehouse is a minimalist chic-cafe by day, but transforms at night into the first scene of the Absurdities dining experience. Each 30 minutes a group of 8 guests starts their experience, which will last approximately 2 hours across 6 courses. Each scene is set up to defy expectations, with surprising transitions, mysterious or transforming dishes, served in incongruous spaces by performers that both guide the guests and inhabit the spaces. The first scene/course in the coffee shop serves as a welcome, including a garden bowl and Sun wine, with a performer setting up that we need to pick the correct door to get to our next stop. Once found, the door opens on a neon kaleidoscope space, at the end of which a hidden door opens on the second scene, the Tree of Old. Here guests sit amongst the huge roots of the tree, which also serve as tables. A zebra suited comedian engages with the guests in a guessing game as to what are the mysterious ingredients of the delicious dish. It turns out the burger and fries are not made of anything that goes into a burger or fries. Next the guests pass incongruously into a desert tent, where they enjoy a smoked quail tajin. This is followed by climbing up into a short tunnel, to find yourself coming out of a cupboard in a classic bright pink 50’s American kitchen, complete with a cheery house mom. She loses no time to defy stereotypes with hilarious jabs at standard culture, and sets up our next dish, inspired by corn flakes: a deconstructed bowl of hot cereal chicken pot pie, where the milk is mushroom milk. Another secret door, this time a revolving wall, and we are at the fifth course, in the dark Potions Library. This time the dish is squid risotto that changes color when sugar shards and a special potion is added. Another hidden door, and the final course happens in the First Class Lounge of a 70’s airliner. Here the desert dish is a classic telephone ... made out ofjello, served with a flute of champagne.To say that Absurdities is an unusual dining experience is an understatement. It’s more Alice in Wonderland than any other dinner —whimsical and delightfully confusing.
What sets this attraction apart?
All senses: Absurdities takes diners on a journey of surprises that touches all senses, and in that way also keeps the guests smiling as well as thinking. The experience is done on an original model: rotating small groups of diners into small distinct sets with actors telling a story for each course, with touches of escape room. It is done with great spirit and high quality, especially for a limited budget. Complex and cool: the experience creates this journey of incongruities by marrying innovative in-story dishes, clever set design, physical mysteries, as well as live characters. But it is also very challenging. Each dish was carefully crafted by the creators of the experience to serve the story of surprise and misdirection, so nothing is off the shelf. The dishes must be ready with every quick pulse of the guests, arrive warm and ready at the perfect time, with the proper amount of story context. A small special kitchen does this for the entire evening with servers and actors assuring coordination. Pandemic challenges: Covid added an additional wrinkle to the project: limitations were imposed by the Singapore health authorities on experiences, specifically prohibiting “dining with live entertainment”, so the team adjusted the experience in such a fashion that the performers leave the room while guests eat, and the entire experience was reframed as a “workshop” - a creative adjustment that was implemented in such a way that it ultimately did not affect the enjoyment of the experience. Between the pulse of guests in each room, dishes have to be cleared and the space sanitized. Vegetarian versions of each dishes we created as well.
How long did the project take to complete?
Six (6) Months
Behind the Scenes
Building an entire team of baristas who knew nothing about coffee who were working for us on our Around the world in 80 days production as part-timers and turning them into professionals just so that Absurdities could have a functioning front for it's speakeasy concept. Asylum Coffeehouse has actually built a reputation for itself with a decent regular fan base.