About Time You Saw: Night at the Bombay RoxyBy Hayley Thompson
Since 2010 Dishoom has gradually made a name for itself as one of London’s more ‘up-market’ curry joints. Spreading its own re-imagined idea of post-colonel ‘Bombay chic’; they’re known for deliciously indulgent food, an atmosphere dipped in elegance and hot jazz – and classic cocktails mixed with new trends.
An immersive enough dining experience for any Londoner seeking refuge from the jostle of the city. But now Dishoom’s latest location takeover, on Kensington’s Derry Street, has partnered with Swamp Studios for a limited run until December 14th. Creating a truly unique way to open a restaurant with a fully immersive theatrical experience.
Steeped in the jazz culture of old Bombay, from almost a century ago, you’ll discover the story of a previously imprisoned (yet charmingly charismatic) Cyrus Irani (Vikash Bhai) – and his finally realised dream of opening a vibrant jazz café. This is no longer an evening out at Dishoom, but, A Night at The Bombay Roxy.
Stepping into the café, clutching your alcohol permit the feeling must be something like arriving at a scene in Casablanca. Your ‘Rick Blaine’ for the evening, Cyrus, soon swaggers over to welcome you. But it’s not long before the soiree is interrupted by police marshals – you’d better be sure to have the correct drinks permit…
While some of the party are swept away you’ll be led to your table for the evening, your seat to the best black dhal in town and tonight’s show.
Inspired by the book Taj Mahal Foxtrot, Naresh Fernandes’s acclaimed history of the Bombay jazz age, the production is designed to be performed around diners, making the story itself lively but essentially simple to follow.
There’s redemption at steak, seduction, fiery relationships amongst the restaurant staff, betrayal and old grudges coming to bare – which ultimately result in an explosive finale.
Although the cast do an excellent job convincing you of their roles – and playing up to the anticipation of promised audience interaction – you won’t find much subtle subplot here. But as you swivel in your chair to catch the ‘Indian noir’ unfolding around you, there’s a feeling you’re witnessing something secret, special and almost real.
Swamp Studios, led by visionary producers, Ollie Jones and Clem Garritty, worked in association with Punchdrunk, to create the show. Alongside creative director and a co-founder of Dishoom, Shamil Thakar, Sara Green, the show’s choreographer and the production’s director, Eduard Lewis, the team worked tirelessly to ensure both story and dining are aligned. Sitting in every seat in the house along the way, checking lines of sight to both action and the brilliant five-piece jazz band, in preparation for opening night.
Although the performance wraps up a little after 10pm the bar remains open giving the audience an opportunity for a little more drinking and some dancing.
Not quite the confident or elaborate story you might hope for from a true noir, there is however drama, curry, cocktails and a touch of sparkle. A Night at the Bombay Roxy is the perfect pre-Christmas outing for those fond of spice and jazz – and a little audience interaction.