“Apocalypse this way, salvation the other way!” declares Paige Janssen, the hostess with the mostest.
Raise your glass if you’ve ever been to a dinner party where you’ve longed to sneak off, if only to that happy place in your head. Now add vomit-inducing food and a hostess who planned the inedible menu as cunningly as she has choreographed the impending verbal slinging match. And that’s just the appetiser.
The pretence of Dinner is to celebrate the release of Paige’s (Tasma Walton) husband Lars’ (Steve Turner) self-help book; which Paige proudly admits she hasn’t read. Although, given her tragic demeanour perhaps she should have.
It’s a curious mix of dinner guests including Lars’ hippy trippy mistress Wynne (Alison van Reeken), microbiologist Hal (Greg McNeill) and his younger “news babe” wife Sian (Rebecca Davis). The late arrival of the only working class guest, albeit uninvited, Mike (Stuart Halusz) is a breath of fresh air from the marital turmoil and disillusion thrown around the elaborate table with as much abandon as the “c” word is used. The formidable presence of the waiter (Kenneth Ransom) only adds to the sinister atmosphere.
Despite the foreboding tone, there are plenty of laughs in Moira Buffini’s black comedy. The constant interruption to Wynne’s delicate happy vibe causes much amusement as do the mechanical crustaceans for the main course Apocalypse of Lobster; dished up between an entrée of Primordial Soup, a desert of Frozen Waste and Mike’s seat squirming discovery of, “Oh look, I found a tea bag.”
The show-stopping gowns add to the drama particularly Tasma Walton’s Ae’lkemi crimson creation complete with feathered shoulders and a plunging lacy neckline leaving little to the imagination. Alison van Reeken dones a Love in Tokyo frock in keeping with her mother earthiness. Rebecca Davies totally rocks her Tindale dress split thigh high.
Further adding to the intense mood, the performance includes no interval. The audience is well considered by the rotating stage allowing us to see everyone’s horrified faces at the exact moment of shocking delivery.
Despite the caustic dinner conversation, the audience takes some comfort in the familiar faces of the cast from previous Black Swan Theatre productions: Tasman Walton in Live Acts on Stage; Rebecca Davies in Other Desert Cities and The Seagull, where she played alongside Greg McNeill, who also performed in Ben Elton’s Gasp; Stuart Halusz in Laughter on the 23rd Floor; Kenneth Ransom from The House on the Lake; and Steve Turner in A Streetcar Named Desire.
Dinner is served 14th – 29th March 2015, Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA
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