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Events That Make Your Senses POP!

TOAST chats to immersive and theatrical event experts Lemonade and Laughing Gas

TOAST.Life chats to Amy Lord and Louise Orwin, the artists behind immersive events company Lemonade and Laughing Gas, to hear more about their hyper-visual, sensory work, how they bring an extra level of fun and ‘fizz’ to their unforgettable events and their thoughts on the supposedly most romantic day of the year.

Browse the Events That Make Your Senses POP! gallery below...


Remember that Twin Peaks pop-up in 2015 that everybody went WILD for? Well let me introduce you to the ladies responsible for it - artists Amy Lord and Louise Orwin, also known as Lemonade and Laughing Gas.

Basically, we create hyper-theatrical, surreal and immersive events that often mix performance, installation, food and drink, and that always bring the FUN, and the WEIRD” explains Louise emphatically.

We create a mix of private and public events on a range of scales and budgets, but all with our trademark style. Louise is the brains behind performance, and I manage the design bits!” adds Amy.

After meeting at the Young People’s Theatre programme at London’s Battersea Arts Centre, this talented dream team first combined artistic forces in 2013, and established Lemonade and Laughing Gas a year later. 

We started off making performance pieces and weird interactive installations together whilst Louise was also working at Disappearing Dining Club. Stuart (Langley) was exploring how to make their dinner events a bit different and took a punt on two wildcard artists - that was our first foray into creating artistic experiences for dinner events and we’ve never looked back!” enthuses Amy. Louise adds;

“That first night that we put on an event for DDC was definitely a kind of light bulb moment for us. We hadn’t really done anything like that before, and the whole event was a flurry of excitement and adrenalin - the feeling of it all going to plan, and the look on our guests’ faces definitely lit something up in us. You never really know whether you’re going to pull something like that off when you’ve never done it before, but we dared ourselves to, and the pay-off was amazing”

Since their formation, Amy and Louise have put on highly acclaimed events in unusual spaces all over London, from disused pickle factories to regency ballrooms. They have fed and watered thousands of hungry diners, and have found a way to bring the 'new' back into the immersive events world. They prode themselves on bringing ‘an extra level of fizz’ to events, whilst specialising in events that that focus on the surreal and bizarre in order to make their guests’ senses ‘pop’.

The key thing is putting yourself in the shoes of your audience and thinking of everything the will be able to see, hear, notice, touch and considering each detail. Our aim is to make people feel like they’ve had an amazing drug without taking anything. Without any of the downsides of course!” Amy smiles.

“We also both spend a lot of time thinking about what we would like to happen to us in these kind of situations too, and that is a great starting point,” adds Louise.

“So for example - I’m standing outside of a building, and I have no idea what’s inside except that I’ve been told to bring a piece of surrealist headwear, what will I see when I step inside the door? How will I feel? What’s weirdest/most exciting/most intriguing thing that can happen next…?”

Amy Louise Christa Holka LLG

(Image: Amy and Louise)

Lemonade and Laughing Gas’ thoughtful approach and their trademark style, described by Amy as ‘hyper-visual, sensory, charming, warming, dark, silly, with a tongue firmly in cheek’,  is also reflected in their suitably unforgettable name too.

“I always say it gives a good sense of the tone of our work - a mix of wholesome, childlike exploration and dark, surreal wickedness or, errr...Enid Blyton on crack” grins Louise.

“We like the idea of contrasts and clashes. When we say ‘laughing gas’ we’re thinking of the ether they used to use at the dentist in Victorian times that provided a bit of unexpected joy. Not the more sinister modern day version. And no, we don’t sell it” adds Amy.

Owls Lemonade And Laughing (1)

Owls Lemonade And Laughing Table

Owls Are Not What They Seem

(Images: The Owls are not What They Seem)

One of L&LG’s most notable creations to date is undoubtedly The Owls are Not What They Seem - an immersive dining experience inspired by the world of Twin Peaks, set over two floors of an impressive multi-storey building in Farringdon, London. The event was set in the fictional town of Double Pineview, and Lemonade and Laughing Gas created a complex world of Lynchian twists and turns. From Wanda's Diner to Black Jack's, and the Roadside Bar to smaller, more intimate spaces: an eerie family dining room, a town morgue, a deserted greenhouse, a young girl's bedroom. Guests were invited to feast on three courses of classic American diner food with a twist, bespoke themed cocktails, and explore Double Pineview's very own slice of Small Town America, intermingling with familiar faces along the way, and discovering the town's secrets for themselves…

We’ve both always been huge fans of Lynch and Twin Peaks and had used the feelings, tone and design of his work as references we kept coming back to again and again, until the idea of making Twin Peaks into a whole world people could inhabit seemed like the most obvious next idea for us! It was a huge risk to attempt a 3 month run as relative unknowns so we found some partners, including food partners Blanch & Shock, and decided it was now or never! The risk paid off – it was the best public project we’ve done so far” explains Amy proudly.

Seeing guests arrive night after night dressed up as their favourite Twin Peaks characters and getting SO involved was amazing,” adds Louise

“The environment we managed to create on that project was so curious and other-wordly - I don’t think we’ve ever caught more people being naughty on our sets! And I think that has to be a good thing. People really lost themselves in it - and I think we did a bit too”

Surrealist Dinner Party Scene

Surrealist Dinner Party Setting

Just one of their other mind boggling experiences was their Surrealist Dinner Party, inspired by Baronness Marie-Hélène Rothschild’s extravagant and infamous party in 1972, where the guests included Salvador Dali, Audrey Hepburn  and Richard Burton. The result was the notorious ‘Diner de Têtes Surrealiste’, and in August 2014 Lemonade and Laughing Gas invited guests to enter this world. Black tie and surrealist heads were compulsory, and the food was a foray into experimental dining - a backwards menu with a 70's twist. It was a night of indulgence and 70s hedonism... the Rothschild way.

It felt SO real!” enthuses Amy.  

“The building and the scenario were just perfect. The guests that attended REALLY got into it and looked the part – a lot of people had crafted their own headpieces! One of my favourite moments was a caped ritual sacrifice carried out to a backdrop of guests playing fluorescent child’s recorders. That will stay in my memory for a long time…”

Surrealist Dinner Party

Surrealist Lemonade And Laughing

Ritual sacrifices and surrealist heads aside – for one night only, this dynamic duo also transformed the soon-to-be-launched and brand-spanking-new Harvey Nichols Birmingham store into the playground and estate of Gatsby-esque 'Mr H Nichols', and created an immersive ‘Christmas in June’ event to showcase Ocado’s new line of Christmas products too. They also recently worked with the charity Guide Dogs, creating an immersive blindfolded, headphone experience recreating the experience of being blind for sighted people.

That was an incredible journey for us. Seeing guests go through the experience and finding it very emotional and revelatory was a pinnacle moment for sure” says Louise. 

Love Bite Games Night Performance

Love Bites Games Night Party

Asbo Party

When they’re not busy working with big brands or hosting their own events they can also createbespoke events including smaller private parties and even weddings, working closely with each client, collaborating on joint visions – a recent a joint 30th birthday party involved a day of team challenges, followed by an outdoor barbeque feast, lit by fire pits and hanging lanterns. Oh and it was 90's nostalgia-themed. 

The process of putting on a good event is very similar to creating a new piece of artistic work or play, and as a company we use all the same methods. All our events have a throughline or narrative which is written by me and directed and produced with performers, props, sound and visuals. Amy designs the complete set for it, and then together we use our artists eyes to refine all the details” explains Louise.

“We think of the audience’s journey through the event in the same way someone might consider writing a narrative for a character in a play - except with us our guests become characters in our creation…whether they like it or not! Which, by the way, they always do!”  

Love Bite Games Night

Love Bites

In previous years Amy and Louise have also created some extraordinary Valentine’s events – designed to stimulate the senses; 14th Feb 2014 saw them take over the spectacular Red Kantine in Shoreditch for their Love Bite Games Night. Combining silliness, games and surreal encounters with a playful, sensory menu, the aim of the night was to win as many hearts as possible - but you also had to break a few along the way. Teaming up with Flo Hillier of Moro the food was an exciting twist on a typical lover’s feast - think aphrodisiacs, playing with your food and getting stuck in…all with an Lemonade and & Laughing Gas edge.

We very much took an ‘anti’ Valentine’s Day stance and encouraged people to come alone or with mates to form teams for some very silly games and encounters” explains Amy.

“The following year we happened to be in possession of a caravan and thought it could be an interesting and hilarious setting for a romantic dinner or celebration of love with friends. We probably would have done something this year but we’re too busy focusing on our next big thing!”

The caravan - dubbed ‘The Caravan of Love’ - was parked close to London Bridge and was the location for 4 delicious courses and imaginative cocktails served up on 14th February 2015. Sittings were available for just 2-8 people and as one Twitter follower said - 'It was harder to get a table here than at Noma'

I think we’ve felt like Valentine’s day can be a total nightmare for everyone – both single and coupled, so we wanted a crack at providing an alternative to sitting cheek to cheek with other couples in a restaurant eating a set menu for two” says Amy.

It’s probably because it can feel like such a nightmare to people that it feels like excellent fodder for us to turn it on its head too - use all those sad clichés, tired tropes, and weighted expectations to create experiences that really take people by surprise!” adds Louise

From caravans to swishy department stores, there is no denying that Lemonade and Laughing Gas’ varied events are nothing short of weird, completely wonderful and totally wacky. As artists and immersive events pros, Amy tells me that she gets inspired from almost everywhere – from the simple art of people watching to various art exhibitions, Nexflix binges to research into societal trends and science.

All of the above” adds Louise

“And also just being with people, learning about the people you love or the people you meet along the way. Learning what makes them tick, what surprises them, what excites or angers them. It’s all grist for the mill.”

Louise and Amy my have a certain knack for making their guests feel well and truly absorbed in their immersive events – but despite being masters of it, the word itself is a source of frustration for them. 

Don’t get us started on that word!! Far too many people are jumping on the bandwagon and using it where it’s not appropriate at all. The word has totally lost it’s meaning so we’re actively trying to use alternatives but irritatingly none really convey what we do as well as ‘immersive’!” explains Amy.

“Immersive for us means the person you’re making the work for has control of what they see, explore, touch and feel. Our events are mostly self-led, a bit of a DIY. You can go as far as you want, and equally have the choice to be more of an observer if that’s what you’re into that day”

“Amy and I are both experience junkies, and I think that can be said for a lot of our generation. Sadly it seems that the word ‘immersive’ can be used interchangeably for a lot of different kind of experiences, but as Amy said, most are totally inappropriate” adds Louise.

“I will say however, that a lot of our work is truly immersive - we create worlds for people to play in, to assume characters in, to write themselves in the fabric of our creations. A lot of it has a dreamy, video-game feel to it. We’re working on coining a new word though so watch this space…”

 LLG Performance

LLG Summer

Oh we will. Lemonade and Laughing Gas are currently working on a selection of private events and their newest project Tokyo Love Hotel, which has been an impressive 4 years in the making, and should be ready for the autumn. So that may be what’s next for them, but I wonder what they think is next for the flourishing immersive (sorry to use that word…) events scene as a whole.

I can see people wanting to escape from real life more and more and wouldn’t be surprised if events using virtual reality pop up over the next few years,” predicts Amy, but Louise is not convinced.

“I’m not so sure that the push into virtual worlds is going to absolutely quench the hunger for new experiences...I can see more events pushing at the limits of human, face-to-face interaction. Especially with all the research at the moment into how digital culture is breeding loneliness, I think we’ll see more events popping up which aim to get people interacting with each other in new ways too. Or maybe that’s just me hoping…” 

HOW LEMONADE & LAUGHING GAS ENTERTAIN AT HOME 

  • Louise - I don’t think I’ll ever get too old for house parties - I hope! When you’ve got all the ingredients for a good house party there - multiple rooms, drinks and party snacks, good tunes, dancing and games, loads of bodies - it can be electric
  • Amy - I have to say there is one very silly game that comes out again and again when I’ve got people round, which I named ‘Dangle and Dip’. It involves tying a pen around your waist to dangle down your back and in between your legs, then attempting to dip the pen in wine bottle on the floor (spins before attempting, optional). It looks ridiculous but never fails to get everyone crying with laughter. That, plus compulsory Negronis.

If you want to hear more or would like to work with Lemonade and Laughing Gas you can find out more information on their page in TOAST’s Little Black Book

 
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