at the Wyndham's Theatre |
Review by Alan Bird
10 Dec 2003
Moira Buffini has written a deliciously black satirical comedy on that ever-recurring theme, the dinner party from hell. At Buffini’s dinner party caustic comments fly like poisonous darts across the dinner table, penetrating false personas and leaving a trail of emotional carnage.
Lars (Nicholas Farrell) is celebrating the fact that his pop psychology book ‘Beyond Belief ‘ is now a best seller. His wife Paige, a self-confessed ‘rich-bitch’ (Harriet Walter) 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’.
Like any fastidious rich host Paige anxiously checks with the waiter (Paul Sirr), whom she has employed for the occasion, that everything is prepared for the imminent arrival of her guests. It is only when she hands over his payment of 25,000 pounds in cash that one suspects the meal may contain some rather nasty surprises.
The guests at this feast of horrors are Wynne (Penny Downie), a post-feminist dippy-hippy artist who at one time exhibited a painting of her MP lover’s genitals, which she entitled “The Member for Camberwell Green”; Hal (Adrian Lukis), a microbiologist who knows a great deal about deadly micros and who is still sensitive about the numerous suicidal attempts made by his ex-wife; Hal’s girlfriend Sian (Flora Montgomery), a journalist and newsreader that resents the way Hal keeps referring to her as a ‘news babe’; And Mike (Paul Kaye), an uninvited guest who having crashed his van in the fog calls at the house seeking the use of the telephone, and ends up staying for dinner.
The meal served is planned to both humiliate her husband and offend the guests, and so it does, in spades. One does not feel pity for the guests who are served this repulsive meal, as you quickly realise, with the exception of Mike, that they are self-serving, self-satisfying prigs. Along with the meal, Paige has prepared conversation topics to help break the ice. The subjects she has chosen for her guests include such delightful dinner conversation topics as ‘Murder’, ‘Truth’ and ‘Suicide’.
Though the premise of this play is simple and the characters one-dimensional, the sharpness of the satire and it’s icy delivery by the cast make this play a tasty morsel of light relief. In particular, Harriet Walter gives a virtuoso performance as Paige, the venomous hostess with the most cruel and dismissive wit.
Moira Buffini reminds us that revenge is a dish best served cold, and at this dinner party it is served frozen.
What other critics had to say.....
NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, " Dinner is real fun but thematically and dramatically undeveloped." PAUL TAYLOR for THE INDEPENDENT says, "A treat." LYNN GARDNER for THE GUARDIAN says, "Delicious bad-taste comedy." CHARLES SPENCER for DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "Irresistibly entertaining and downright moreish." BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, "Plenty of entertainment and fun on offer here." ALASTAIR MACAULAY for THE FINANCIAL TIMES says, "Dinner is less than the sum of its parts."
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