While most law-abiding citizens will hopefully never see the inside of a prison, the lead-up to Netflix’s fourth season of Orange Is The New Black presented a unique opportunity for those curious about prison life to get a taste of the inside. Transforming OverEasy Orchard into a mess hall to pay homage to one of the principal sets of the series, guests will have the chance to trade in the upmarket backdrop of Orchard Road for the harsh fluorescence of Litchfield Penitentiary Cafeteria, donning orange uniforms and all. And though our experience as part of the first lot to be processed was a dream for fans of the prison-centred show, it was hard not feeling a little like Piper Chapman fresh in the big-house while eating like an inmate.
Once we made it past the metal detectors and were subjected to a pat-down (but thankfully no squat-and-cough), we collected our orange threads from the commissary and queued obediently to have our mug shots taken, all while under the watchful eye of the prison guards (they even had their very own ‘Pornstache’ to keep us in check). Whether they were keeping in character or had very quickly succumbed to the temptation of authority a la Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment, they made it no secret that it was their house and, thus, their rules.
Like a nervous Chapman flying under the radar to avoid the business end of a guard’s baton, we witnessed guests quickly adopting mob mentality and organising themselves into rival cliques and hierarchies. We realised we needed to make a decision: do we lay low like Morello and hope to remain on everyone’s good side, or do we take a page out of Red’s book and establish ourselves as ferocious leaders of the pack? We took the latter approach, and it unsurprisingly didn’t work in our favour – it turns out that giving the cafeteria cooks attitude surrenders your right to have sauce on your mystery loaf. Deflated, we took our tray to the nearest available bench and deliberated our fate during our remaining hours in lock-up.
As for the food, acclaimed Artichoke chef, Bjorn Shen, did a remarkable job of making it look spectacularly unremarkable. The items to feature on our plastic trays included a burnt, unidentifiable vegetable brick dubbed ‘Nutraloaf’, a cup of corn, and perhaps the most miserable dessert ‘gruel’ we’d ever seen. Though the loaf contained what appeared to be quinoa and a touch of truffle oil – we don’t imagine these things would ever see the inside of a penitentiary without some resourceful smuggling efforts – enthusiasm for the food was, expectedly, underwhelming. However, the discovery of hidden contraband on the underside of our trays, courtesy of a sharp warning from our dear friend Pornstache, quickly lifted our spirits.
Shortly after being granted a cup of beer by a bartender who refused to serve anyone without being addressed as “Sir”, it was time to take our seats to enjoy a special screening of the real Litchfield Penitentiary. In order to keep our exercise privileges and avoid being shanked in the showers, we can’t snitch on what Season Four of Orange Is The New Black has in-store. But with the worldwide premiere this Friday, you won’t have to wait long to find out. Lock yourselves in, and happy binging.
Bookings for the Litchfield Penitentiary Cafeteria are expended, but walk-ins are still welcome from June 16 to 17. Visit chope.co for more information. For updates on Orange Is The New Black and other Netflix Originals series, visit facebook.com/netflixsg.
Text & Images Trent Davis