Dinner is the story of a dinner party thrown by Paige to celebrate her husband’s best selling book. She has selected the guests very carefully, but when one of them arrives alone after splitting up with her husband the carefully laid plans are under threat. However, Paige presses ahead and makes up numbers by including Mike who has crashed his van outside and only called in to use the phone, as well as a waiter she has found advertising his services on the internet.
It soon becomes clear that this will be the meal from hell as first course is Primordial soup followed by Apocalypse of Lobster, which set the tone for the whole evening.
The play, written by Moira Buffini (and directed by sister Fiona Buffini), was a hit both at the National Theatre and in the West End and ranges from farce to drama but unfortunately in this productions there are several periods where the action drags. This results in the play seeming a lot longer than 1 hour 40 minutes with no interval.
The characters are only introduced to us with a first name and a brief description in the programme, such as Lars, a writer; Mike, an uninvited guest; Hal, a scientist, so we have already placed these people into stereotypes. But the cast in the main are first class being lead by Stephanie Beacham who is resplendent as the hostess Paige, in a bright orange cocktail dress. Louise Jameson plays Wynn an artist (and the offending guest who arrives partner-less) and Patrick Ryecart is Paige’s author husband.
However Sian, ‘a sexpot’ is played by Gaby Roslin who seems miscast and very uncomfortable with her role. She may have played Mama Morton in Chicago but here she fails to convince - somewhat ironic as she is playing a TV presenter. It could be the fault of the wardrobe mistress, director or designer but Roslin looks ill at ease and her dated costume does nothing to better her cause.
This is certainly an ensemble piece of theatre and unless all the cast are firing on all cylinders it will not work - last night was one of those nights and no matter how hard the main players pulled out the stops there were moments when the play faltered.
It is only fair to also warn audiences that this play contains extremely strong language, which is likely to offend some people.
- John Dixon (reviewed at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle)