If you have any problems on your journey, its probably best not to direct them at Claude. Stomping up and down the aisle, yelling at passengers, and leaving his emotional baggage unattended in the vestibule, he is an extremely bitter train conductor.
Its hard to know whether he has always been like this or if its a recent work anniversary that is getting him down. He’s been ferrying souls to hell for a thousand years, and I bet he didn’t get so much as a congratulations on LinkedIn.
When your only love is seized in a pact with the devil, and you’re condemned to ride the Hades Express for the rest of eternity, your network can quickly forget about you.
The only thing that might restore his sanity we discover, is being reunited with his aforementioned love, Sabine. And over the course of the meal, we will help him do that.
This is the latest immersive, dining experience departing from Pedley Street Station – just behind Brick Lane – due to arrive in the underworld at the end of four courses.
The menu to accompany the journey has been created by Louisa Ellis, a 2017 finalist of Masterchef: The Professionals. It begins with a deliciously smooth butternut squash volute, and continues in a similar vein, using all the words you’ve heard on the telly, but were too afraid to ask what they meant.
Black garlic gnocchi with truffle and nasturtium, guinea fowl with celeriac textures, and chocolate ganache with a bee pollen tuile. The food is wonderful, the earthy sweet textures of celeriac a particular favourite.
The train guard, Gordy, ensures that those with skulls by their placemats get the vegan plate they requested, but there’s more than a hint of mania in his eyes too. No doubt rattled by the variety of dietary requirements, which have sent him a little bit Diane Chorley on acid. And who couldn’t love Diane Chorley on acid?
James Hamer-Morton who plays Claude is consistently outraged at our lack of respect for his plight, driving the story on between courses with wit and care.
The whole experience is like being a child on a fairground ride, where all of the elements are specifically designed to stimulate pleasure in you.
The story itself is simple, and reflects other tragic journeys of men seeking to retrieve their female loved one’s soul from the clutches of death/dragons/demons.
A little while after his travels with Jason and the Argonauts, Orpheus made the same journey as Claude, in search of his love Eurydice who died escaping an attempted rape. More recently it was Deadpool who’s entire emotional journey was triggered by the murder of the woman he loved, in Deadpool 2.
There’s a term for this story trope, deriving from the analysis of superhero stories in the late nineties. The term ‘fridging’ was coined after the murdered body of Green Lantern’s girlfriend was packed into a fridge. His resulting grief propels his story through the rest of the comic, whilst simultaneously ensuring her passivity.
So, although our instinct was to cheer when – spoiler klaxon – Claude manages to retrieve Sabine from the fires of hell, it still nagged a bit.
Charlie Bond is excellent as Sabine, displaying considerable versatility throughout the show. And arguably she wouldn’t have been able to display that variety had she been the lead character. But nevertheless Sabine was never the agent of change in her own story. That was the man’s job.
This is not a show that is explicitly about gender politics – its fun, and tasty, and well executed. But once you start looking, you can’t help but see fridging everywhere you look.
Journey to the Underworld is on until 4 November 2018 at Pedley Street Station. Click here for more details.