Dinner. Written by Moira Buffini. Directed by Bernard Moule - September 2014

 

Review: Michael Casey - Your Harlow, 13th September 2014

HELL is other people and there is no better embodiment of Sartre’s famous saying than Dinner by Moira Buffini.

In many ways, award winning plays that have been performed by award winning companies is a risky one for amateur productions because, it can be the case, that the only way is down. However, rest assured, the Harlow Theatre Company production that we saw was a wonderfully dark, comic and perfectly pitched descent into hell.

Lars (Clive Weatherley) is celebrating the fact that his pop psychology book ‘Beyond Belief ‘ is now a best seller. His wife Paige, a self-confessed ‘rich-bitch’ (Jane Miles) decides to throw a dinner party in his honour, and carefully plans a surprise menu that will fittingly mark the occasion: ‘Primordial Soup’, ‘Apocalypse of Lobster’ and for dessert ‘Frozen Waste’.

Jane Miles positively simmers with resentment and anger. The versatile actress spits out her poisonous lines with great accuracy. Dressed in scarlet, her look of contempt as Wynne (Wendy Grant) comes to the party dressed like Pam Ayres on a windy day, is worth the admission price alone.

Clive Weatherley remains a key part of the ensemble as he is both the subject of celebration and contempt.

As usual, the actors are pitch perfect and intertwine perfectly. There are times, when, all sat at the table, that each actor is a mini-play all of their own and each actor is worth watching, whether they are speaking or not.

Catherine Stewart’s plays Sian, the younger wife of Hal. Catherine comes across as a mixture between Janine from EastEnders and Lady Macbeth. Or to be more accurate, she plays a scheming, bitchy journalist. Suffice to say that this 52-year-old hack thought you got it spot on!

Joe Bishop proved that he is a very flexible actor as we last saw him play Orlando in As You Like It. This time, he plays a ex-Army lad, who may or not be a burglar.

Paul Stephenson as Hal is a pleasure to watch as he is very relaxed in his role but like Clive Weatherly acts like a foil for the more showier performances.

It is a cracking script but this play, in the wrong hands, can go flat instead this is a superb, ensemble piece that had the audience in raptures. At times the audience was in convulsions with laughter and then struck with the mounting tension.

A special word goes to Steve Hannam as The Waiter. Steve personifies brooding menace. No, he really does! The fact that he lives around the corner from this reporter has not got us worried at all. Oh no…

The set is perfect and perfectly lit. Once again, Bernard Moule’s direction hits the right notes but it is the interplay between the characters throughout the whole play that keeps the audience engaged.

Friday’s performance was in front of a packed house. This was not an easy play and the peppering of a certain word is always going to be a hard one but they did it with dramatic integrity.

Dinner by the Harlow Theatre Company is a banquet of acting excellence from each and every actor. Once, again, well done.