Guest reviewer Andrew Jack enjoys a food-based show and meal at the Arnos Manor Hotel, courtesy of the Show of Strength Theatre Company…
Fanny & Johnnie, the original TV cookery double act, have been off our screens for many years. However, as long as there are prawns, mayonnaise and tomato sauce, Fanny will always be in our hearts.
Show of Strength have brought the Cradocks to life in a way I have never seen and, truth be told, never expected. The show is billed as an evening with the Cradocks where you will learn about the creation of the classic prawn cocktail along with her creation for the Queen’s Jubilee.
Confession time: I’m too young to remember the Cradocks first time round but one look around the room showed that I was in the minority. While some of the references were lost on me this in no way proved detrimental to the evening.
The evening starts with Fanny demonstrating her world famous and classic prawn cocktail with some help from the audience (this is not a show for the shy). Although Fanny insisted on insulting the good people of Somerset, this Somerset lad could not hold it against her. Even the insults were delivered with breathless charm.
After act 1 is done, the audience is served the Arnos Manor’s take on Fanny’s prawn cocktail. This was served at the perfect temperature with lovely presentation and provoked people on my table to reminisce about prawn cocktails from their pasts which mainly appeared to be served at Christmas. I love food that brings back childhood memories and this was no exception.
Act 2 involves more insults, this time directed at certain chefs including some well crafted lambasting of the creator of Coronation Chicken. Fanny has created Poulet de Malouines for the Queen’s Jubilee: a dish better described in French.
This act provided the highlight of the evening: a beautiful rendition of “I Got You Under my Skin” while she has her hand up a chicken! I was not the only one with tears of laughter streaming down their face.
Sadly the interpretation from the hotel kitchens did not live up to expectations. For my tastes, the chicken was overly salty (I suspect from liberal applications to ensure a crispy skin), sadly the carrots were overcooked and the accompanying green beans undercooked. The beans had not been trimmed that well either. The roast potatoes had a lovely crisp to the outside while simultaneously being hard on the inside.
However, it must be remembered that the evening is all about the show, and it is not easy to feed 60 odd people with the speed and efficiency that Arnos Manor managed.
After the main course, Fanny and Johnnie return to conduct a seance in the hope of contacting her culinary hero and spirit guide. Sadly they slightly miss their intended spiritual target and end up with some startling revelations about Fanny’s past…providing yet more hilarity along with further audience participation and stunning piano playing from Johnnie.
Kate McNab and John Telfer inhabit the characters with class and John’s jazz piano along with beautiful singing from Kate were highlights of the evening. If you’ve not caught them yet I urge you to hunt out a performance: you will not regret it.
Please note: our show tickets, including the meal, were received free of charge, but in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue and theatre company did not see this review before it was put up on the site.