Skip to main content

Review of Dinner by Masque Theatre at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

I have seen two previous plays by Moira Buffini, writer of this dark comedy, they being Dying for It and Welcome to Thebes, and both were superbly entertaining plays with the former the closest to Dinner in its darkness of strorytelling. However for me, Dinner is much more style over substance and portraying quite a lot of what I often hate from many wannabe highbrow plays, pretentiousness.

It's failure for me though comes from the story it attempts to tell rather that the brilliant characters it creates (and brought to life seriously well by this very strong cast). A dinner party from hell is how it describes itself and as it weaves its way to a showy (and yes, unpredictable conclusion) it goes to great pains in showing how clever it is by talking all big existential stuff as death, truth and suicide. I don't think the hell at this dinner party would be dealing with the crazy courses or the dramatic climax, it would be getting through the cleverer than its thinks it is dialogue.

However this all sounds like I hated the play and everything it represents totally. This is not true, as during the two hours we have some really great characters to experience the play through, although perhaps sometimes over caricatured. Paige (Gemma Knight) our dinner host has put on a celebratory dinner for her writer husband Lars (Andy Rowe). Their guests for the evening are Wynne (Victoria Miles), who is unexpectedly missing a partner, and Hal (Matthew Fell) and his girlfriend Sian (Katy Corrie). Add to the mix, the perhaps inevitable unexpected guest, Mike (Chris East) and the menacing specter of the silent waiter (David Chappell) and you have enough character to drive the story forward.

The biggest thrill for me from Dinner was to finally see Matthew Fell on the stage after only ever having seen his work (always excellent) from the director's chair. Managing to act beyond his dazzling shirt (no mean feat) to create somehow an interesting microbiologist. He is also responsible for perhaps one of the funniest scenes, going crazy with his imagined pump-action shotgun. A classic moment.

Katy Corrie is genuinely a revelation as Sian, revealing chameleon like capabilities which left me confused for sometime as to whether I had got the cast wrong. It is a devilish performance as the TV "news-babe" bringing to life an oozing monstrosity of menace to both dinner companions and lobsters alike.

As the "happily" married couple, Gemma Knight and Andy Rowe spark off one another with great verve. Knight looking spectacular as our host (as do all in this incredibly well dressed play) attempting to maintain control of her evening. There is a brilliant scene between her and Rowe when dealing with the arrival of Mike, a battle for supremacy indeed.

Victoria Miles as bicycle riding and vegetarian Wynne brings great unwitting humour to the table with her constant distress for all things living being dead. Chris East is perfect as the completely out of place Mike, maintaining hidden meanings throughout his performance as both us and the guests seek out who he truly is. Completing the cast is the ever reliable David Chappell as the constantly lurking waiter.

Production is top notch with stunning wardrobe, amazing make-up work and a simplistic but totally appropriate set. It is always a challenge to stage a predominantly table-bound play with its static nature, but the play maintains life thanks to the constant movement of the waiter. I simply loved the scene changing throbbing sound and light pulse, and missed this in the second act when I assume a technical moment reared its head. However it truly was a great little creation as the scene shifted.

However the best way I can sum up Dinner is that it creates a wonderful depth to its characters but they are trappped in a play that is not as clever as it thinks it is. Thankfully once beyond the slow build-up, those characters and some excellent performances and a few funny lines is enough to make the play entertaining enough, if a little insubstantial a meal at times.


Performance reviewed: Thursday 4th May, 2017 at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton.

Dinner runs until Saturday 6th April, 2017 at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton. Details can be found at http://www.masquetheatre.co.uk/

For full details about the Playhouse Theatre visit their website at http://www.theplayhousetheatre.net/

PHOTOS: JOE BROWN

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review of This Evil Thing at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

This Evil Thing written and performed by Michael Mears isn't my first encounter with a play about conscientious objectors, however, it absolutely is the most detailed in its explanation of the subject. A clear and absolute labour of love from Michael Mears, and an obviously very personal thing for him, it leaves the audience pretty much in its grip for the whole of its 80 minutes.

Almost uniquely, our performer Michael Mears is in the theatre stalls upon entry, observing the arrival of the audience and indeed exchanging conversation at times. It's fascinating to see a performer not only there, but seemingly so relaxed pre-show and as he bounds on the stage at show start, this little nugget proves intriguing in itself.

Michael Mears is a captivating presence on stage, as previously experienced on the same stage in A Tale Of Two Cities and The Herbal Bed, therefore it comes as little surprise that he has a confident ability to make a one-man show work, and so well. With the use …

Review of Balm in Gilead, University of Northampton BA Acting (Creative Acting) at Maidwell Hall, Northampton

Watching the production of Balm in Gilead sees my entering the fifth year of following the University of Northampton acting students, and what theatre they have provided over the years!

Balm in Gilead is no less intriguing than anything that has gone before, written in 1965 by Lanford Wilson, you might think this would be a dated item for the young students to be performing, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Set in a cafe (transposed to England from its original American setting), it sees the lives of addicts, homeless and sex workers converge into a mixture of good but mostly bad moments.
My first time in the Maidwell Hall saw an encounter with a brilliantly realised community full of the world of the cafe and the surrounding homes, cardboard boxes and dishevelled beds. As we enter the characters of this world begin living alongside us, addressing us, begging us for money, pushing shopping trolleys around offering off the cuff exchanges with the audience and confronti…

Review of Bombshell by Contact Light Theatre at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

Warning: This review contains spoilers

Whether it is an overwhelming success or mostly a failure, I have over the years grown a huge affinity for fresh new work on the stage. The need to regurgitate and rework old pieces continuously may well get easy bums on seats, but at the end of the night, it has no doubt pleased a few but it hasn't really made any future impact on theatre of the future. Presenting a new play and new work, however, who knows what it might have seeded in the years to come?

Therefore as I watched Bombshell, not only a new play, but also the first offering from a new theatre company, I was thrilled that first of all, it leaned much more towards the success line, and also that over half filling the theatre, it had also put quite a few of the bums on seats as well.

Curiously I have recently read Festen by David Eldridge, and while Bombshell goes much its own way, I felt early on, I (and perhaps others in the audience), felt I had a distinct advantage over some of …