Everyone has pondered over who their ideal celebrity dinner party guests would be – and on Sunday, Jessie Ware fans were invited to live that dream, in a way, with a show that feels like you’re a guest in her own home.
Jessie and her mum Lennie are the perfect hosts with their interesting conversation and infectious obsession with food. They’ve taken their award-winning podcast – Table Manners – where they interview some of the biggest names in showbiz, from Sir Paul McCartney to Dame Joanna Lumley, on tour.
They get into hearty discussions about nostalgic food memories and ask guests to set out what their last supper would be, and why. The first stop for the live performance was Edinburgh, before Birmingham and London, but Bridgewater Hall is extra special for Lennie as it’s her homecoming from her, as her daughter from her puts it, as she grew up in Salford.
Also for the evening, we’re graced with a surprised guest, who turns out to be the wonderful Adam Kay, of the adored This Is Going To Hurt book and BBC TV series. Equally as quick-witted as the comedic mum and daughter duo, Adam ignites screams of laughter from the audience as the threesome bond over their shared Jewish heritage and its rich culture of traditional cuisine.
While the podcast sees either Jessie or Lennie host and cook for the celebrities, being on tour makes it a bit tricky in the kitchen department, so they decide to order a takeaway. However, as the singer shares her excitement over her lunch at Sugo Pasta Kitchen, she’s a little embarrassed by their offering of broccoli and aubergine from Viet Shack for their vegetarian guest.
They make up for it though with champagne, and ask us to raise our plastic cups of wine to join them in a celebratory cheers, and a cheesecake, which suits cheese-lover Adam, who says his last supper would be mac and cheese and that his guilty pleasure is cheesy chips.
In his presence, Jessie says the crowd – a mix of very fashionably dressed groups of women, mums with daughters, and gay couples – is being far too polite for Manchester, but the atmosphere understandably turns sobering as Adam opens up about his devastating departure from the NHS after a ‘terrible day at work’.
Without going into too much detail, the former doctor explains how each day would be a matter of life or death, and confesses to the immense pressure this can put staff under – the one thing medical school didn’t train him for. Jessie, who first started out in journalism, moves the talking points on at just the right time throughout and gets answers to questions everyone wants to know, including Adam’s go-to from the hospital vending machine (a Twix).
We applaud Adam goodbye before the show breaks for a short interval, and when we return, Jessie says it’s time to kick back and take off our shoes, as she does with her black pointed heels. Watching just the two of them, their loving bond becomes even more abundant, and she wraps the auditorium in a warm hug, making me wish my mum was sitting by my side too (no offense to my fabulous plus one).
Lennie, darling, is being a classic mum and needs help with the iPad, where she reads out questions sent in by the audience during the interval. They’re asked who they would ‘snog, marry, avoid’ out of their guests thus far, who has been their worst, and who has been a ‘don’t meet your heroes’, along with the biggest diva, and while it feels like we’re all gossiping among friends, they keep it professional by remaining shtum.
But Jessie admits there was one recorded episode with a male guest that never got to see the light of day, invoking a salacious giggle from the throng. The second half continues to be intimate yet more laidback and casual, as Jessie does a ‘Joss Stone,’ walking around the stalls shoeless taking more questions as we hear about Lennie’s love of roast dinners and the singer’s unusual but comforting cheese on toast, where she adds peanut butter and marmite.
The show concludes with a bit of a quiz to find their biggest fan of the podcast, as they dish out Lennie’s famous chicken soup to the lucky ones at the front.
Five years later and 13 series down, it’s evident why Table Manners has been such a big hit, and their tour is no exception offering a night out that feels like a cozy night in; entertaining, joyous, and a sense of togetherness over our love of food.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.