The Dishwashers (Birmingham Repertory Theatre)
David Essex plays the lead in his return to the Birmingham Repertory Theatre
Emmett (Rik Makarem) used to wine and dine among high society until a financial crash saw his life tumble around him, and though he still regularly attends the restaurant, he now has a new view – as a dishwasher. Emmet meets his colleagues Dressler (David Essex), the leader of the dishwashers who seems comfortable and happy at work and Moss (Andrew Jarvis), the old man who is more fragile than the restaurant's best china.
The message the writer (Morris Panych) is trying to convey could not have been clearer as the three men continue at their menial jobs and contemplate their various methods of dealing with existence. Yet even through its Orwellian influences it is hardly avoidable that even among the despair of the characters, humour can still be found.
Three black screens are used to open and close each act, almost as though they provide a window to the simple kitchen set, "behind the scenes" of the restaurant. Each open and close is used to show the audience that time has progressed but also the repetition shows how time seems to stand still for the dishwashers, as though their world is completely cut off from the rest of the world.
Essex plays Dressler, a stubborn, self-appointed leader who has been at the restaurant for so long that he has created his own world down there, where he has "a duty" to the people upstairs. Without fulfilling his duties, he believes the foundations of the restaurant will collapse. Essex, of course, was no let down and did the character perfect justice – at times enforcing the leader who ruthlessly encourages others to accept their position, but with the perfect hint of humour to keep the play light.
Moss seems to have spent his entire life working at the restaurant and despite being very old and ill continues to be of hand in the kitchen. Jarvis perfectly portrayed his character and easily represents the generation who do not recognise change and are set in their comfortable ways.
Makarem plays the new boy, Emmet. Emmet refuses to believe the other two that there is no way out of the dishwashing world and constantly tries to fight the system. Makarem beautifully complements his cast mates as he provides a new and different approach to the existential crisis that appears throughout the play.
Endlessly entertaining and intriguingly inspiring.