Review of Dessert at Southwark Playhouse

Dessert at Southwark Playhouse
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Tuesday, 18 July, 2017
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Justice is a dish best served cold, and violently. That's exactly what's on the menu in Oliver Cotton's new thriller Dessert.

Four upper class friends sit round a dinner table. An English couple are entertaining their American guests. The two men are investment bankers about to strike up a deal in the finance world. They spend the first 20 minutes of the play swooning over their exotic second (or third, or fourth) homes on the continent and their lavish, expensive antique paintings. They are the one per cent, and this is exactly how you'd imagine they are behind closed doors.

They await their final course of the evening as they're rudely interrupted by one angry visitor, Eddie. Then things start to get tasty. Eddie is a soldier who has been screwed over by the fat cats in the city. His father owned shares in a company that went bust, leaving him on his knees as the owners ran off with a lump sum. Eddie’s taken it upon himself to break in and demand justice. 

What follows is two hours of, at times, gripping dialogue about greed and the economic disparity ingrained in our society. But despite this, it simply takes too long to find out what the soldier actually wants in return for interrupting this shindig. The script has a tendancy to become too concerned with being a social commentary than actually driving the story home. 

While the cast of six put in a good shift, it is Stephen Hangan who shines as the unwelcome Eddie. He explodes into a balls of untempered rage, but always manages to eloquently maintain his argument. He's outnumbered in the room, but remains in control of it. He has a bellowing voice that commands both the stage and the situation. 

The characters pace around Rachel Stone's quaint English country-house set in Trevor Nunn's understated production. He keeps the intensity up without feeling like it’s too much. A breakdown here, a gun shot there, it's all paced quite well. Together with Cotton's script, this production does provide some gut-wrenching, thrilling moments.

In a very cathartic way, what Dessert does is delve into the lives of the super-rich, pulls the rug from underneath them and screams in their faces. And I wouldn’t say no to seconds. 

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