I found myself back in 2018 with access to a free ticket to Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again (“The one with Cher” as I call it.) I had avoided Mamma Mia for various reasons, I am indifferent to their songs but appreciative of ABBA’s vocal ability/Eurovision connection but I wanted to this evening at the cinema to make sense so I watched Mamma Mia with my critical eye
As you can see I was somewhat distracted by the baffling “WHOSE DA DADDY” story for the wrong reasons. I bring up this because if, like me, you found the films baffling then Mamma Mia the party, an immersive spin off the films/stage show is one of the most batshit mental things I have ever seen.
I was excited about this new immersive experience but my excitement soon turned to disgust as the prices for this dining experience were revealed as this tweet from Carl Woodward.
To which I responded with
I think when we talk about theatre being inaccessible we need to talk about a dining experience which is more expensive than a holiday to Greece. A limited menu that sells wine only by the bottle and in some cases premium prices. Spoilers: It all tastes like wine, some are just nicer than others.
Cut to Autumn 2019 and I suddenly get offered a ticket to Mamma Mia the Party through a friend. I obviously said no because this is clearly not a cheap seat and *checks notes* oh no, I am basically cheap and said yes, rearranged my plans and ensured I was on time for 18:30 door opening. I wasn’t going to say no to anything worth £150+. I am not crazy.
There are much better reviews on the experience but I will say I was rarely impressed, from wandering through the O2 arena as if you were going to a restaurant before a gig (Can I please get an award for not crying that I was going here instead of Jimmy’s World Buffet) to the long queues just to get in.
Audience members are offered 1 (ONE) welcome drink and then you are are on your own. You’ve possibly just paid £150+ for a glass of fizzy pink wine and the hope that you will get the sharing starter of greek dips and bread before your neighbours, who you might know because even if you have scraped £150+ on a ticket your friends have hopefully told you where to stick your invite. My god that sharing platter is small but it is the most generous portion of the night. Once that food is gone, it is gone.
At least the starter is veggie-friendly. The following two courses contain octopus and beef and lamb (which are beautifully cooked but that beautifully cooked) with a few veggie friendly sides but no vegetarian on my table had a decent alternative offered to them.
The show doesn’t really begin; cast members wander around talking to you as you are chewing gormlessly on some bread. They are all attractive in conventional way and then you realise why this feels so strange. This isn’t a party. Normal people don’t have parties like this, with nearly naked men in scuba gear, some cirque de soleil-esque acrobatics in a fountain and a baffling scene which was compared to Eyes Wide Shut. This is a fantasy, a fantasy you are on holiday, a fantasy that this loosely linked storyline about a Greek man and his daughter’s semi incestuous romance with her step-mother’s nephew makes any sense. It is a sensory overload with its live band, the extreme lighting and even the tasting of the food. It is theatrical but not necessarily in a good way. The face of a man who looked like he had been fighting in Somme, rather than out having a meal will stay with me for a long time. Compare that to the Baby Boomers getting drunk and dancing the night away whilst being held back from ruining the choreography of the show. It is a sight for the eyes.
The strength of this show is those that are having a great time. You would have to a heart of stone not to be charmed by the cast but the concept, the style of substance is so shallow. Is this good for theatre. No. Is this good fun? Absolutely.
Mamma Mia the Party is booking until May 2020. Tickets, from £85, are released at 9am on 15 November 2019 www.mammamiatheparty.co.uk