We’ve tracked down The Lost Estate: they’re in a brand new, semi-permanent space hidden down an ordinary residential street in West Kensington (though, yes, ‘ordinary’ in West Kensington means rows of immaculately kept Edwardian mansion blocks).
At the end of the street, you’ll see a small crowd gathering. A velvet rope. The strange, but unmistakeable sound of horses’ hooves emanating from within. Welcome to The Great Christmas Feast.
This is the fifth edition of The Lost Estate’s legendary sell-out show, an immersive rendition of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in which (in a very un-Scrooge-like twist) they lavish you with fine food, excellent cocktails, and first-class storytelling.
Once inside, you’ll be channelled through lamp-lit streets (complete with an atmospheric soundscape) before reaching the main setting for the evening: the study of Charles Dickens himself. And as studies go, it’s pretty comfortable: it takes up a fair portion of the 25,000 sq ft complex, with dozens of round tables set for communal dining; a four-poster bed; a bathtub… it’s essentially an entire house condensed into one beautifully dressed, convivial space, lit atmospherically by a canopy of suspended lanterns.
Once you’ve had time to settle in and order a Smoking Bishop to your table (a Victorian cocktail of pinot noir, port, cherry & orange liqueurs and, er, smoke, that’s mentioned in the book), those lanterns will dim and the magic will begin. An amazingly energetic Dickens will bound into the room, eager to share the first draft of his latest novella, Oliver Twist II: Yes, You Can Have Some More (working title). Over the course of the evening, he’ll draw you into Dickens’ classic redemptive tale (literally, in the cases of audience interaction), skilfully peppering the original text with modern asides and liberal amounts of swearing.
It takes real skill to bring the story to life as a one-man show, and that’s carried off with aplomb by the two actors alternating in the role of Dickens, Leander Deeney (Skins) and Pierro Niel-Mee (Royal Shakespeare Company). Niel-Mee was in fine fettle when we went, effortlessly switching from an affable Dickens to a cranky Scrooge and an unexpectedly bawdy Ghost of Christmas Present. And he’s not alone up there: a trio of skilled and versatile musicians underscores the entire evening to bewitching effect, while atmospheric lighting and dynamic staging by choreographer and director Simon Pittman (Frantic Assembly) keeps the whole room alive. And as for the dinner…
…yes, amidst all the excitement you might forget that a three-course Victorian feast is coming your way, courtesy of Dickens’ housekeeper Ursula (also known as The Lost Estate’s Executive Chef Ash Clarke, who’s cooked for Gordon Ramsay Group, Smokestak, and Temper Soho). On the menu: cod & oyster butter sauce (a recipe by Catherine Dickens herself), followed by house-smoked turkey with apricot & sage stuffing (oh, and alllll the trimmings, from triple-cooked duck fat roasties to sprouts with treacle-cured bacon), finishing with 12th Night Cake which, if you’ve ever been a medieval aristocrat, you’ll know was a poached pear & frangipane treat laden with warming Christmas spices and bayleaf custard.
The Great Christmas Feast will make you burst into laughter, but it also has the potential to creep up on you and bring a tear to your eye. It takes a particularly skilled set of people to create an evening that genuinely leaves you feeling connected to a roomful of strangers.
There’s a lot of things to do in London over the festive period that are engineered towards making memories, but don’t actually have that much substance to them in the end. But we can’t think of anything that better encapsulates what Christmas is really about than this show.
As we mentioned, it sells out every year, so if you want to get hold of a ticket…
…you’ll need to go like the Dickens.
NOTE: The Great Christmas Feast takes place from November 15th until January 15th 2023. Tickets start at £49.50 – Nudge readers can skip the usual waiting list and instead book in straight away via their own bespoke ticketing link here.
The Lost Estate | 9 Beaumont Ave, W14 9LP
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