The Feast of Snails

  • Date:
    Monday, February 25, 2002
    Review by:
    Darren Dalglish

    When I was in New York last week someone told me they were fed up with seeing plays with good acting but poor scripts and I have to say I agree. Unfortunately, in "Feast of Snails" we have another such play, one with David Warner absolutely brilliant trying his best with a weak drama by Icelandic playwright Olf Olafsson. Its short running time of 1 hour 35 minutes, without an interval, is just about as much as my palate would allow. It is one of those plays that attempt to build up intrigue and suspense and explode with dark secrets. Instead, we have a mild titter that ends with a whisper.

    The story is set in the dining room of Karl Johnson, a highly successful business tycoon, who is preparing for a solitary gourmet feast of snails. (He is a member of an epicurean club, and since he can't make it to their Paris feast, he decides to have the same meal at home at the same time as his Paris colleagues). However, David Poulsen, a young stranger, comes to his home and disrupts him wanting to explain something of importance. But. instead of revealing what it is, he becomes entangled in rapport with the ‘racist’ Karl. As expected, we have to wait until the end of the play for the revelation.

    The problem is that the material is thin, without much substance, intrigue or interest - most of the dialogue is idle chatter. It also has a credibility problem, Why did Karl allow this stranger into his home, and invite him to share his ‘feast of snails’ and then chat about anything other than the reason for the strangers visit.

    It is also confusing in that I do not know what the author is trying to portray? Is there a moral question hidden within the script, or is it simply a case of trying to write a thriller that leaves the audience in suspense waiting for the 'dark secret’ to be revealed? Whichever, he fails on both counts!

    Anyway, the play is saved from being a complete washout by a terrific cast, particularly the performance of David Warner who is a natural on stage. He has a commanding and charismatic stage presence. Warner last tread the West End stage 30 years ago, what a shame he should have chosen this play for his comeback. There is also satisfying performances from Philip Genister as David, and Siman Morris and Sorcha Cusack as the two maids.

    The play has already posted closing notices (23rd march) after being slated by the popular press. One can only hope that this will not put Warner off from making another return to the West End as he is a truly great actor.

    The popular press did not like it: CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPGH says, “Imagine an under-the-weather Ibsen attempting to write a commercial thriller as a little light relief from Ghosts and you will get some idea of the bilge on offer here…….It's a dreadful play.”MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GUARDIAN says, “Ron Daniels directs this dramatically inert piece as best he can.” JONATHAN MYERSON for THE INDEPENDENT says, “The Feast of Snails is saved from closing in the interval only by the fact that, mercifully, it has no interval….. Is the dialogue witty? No. Do the characters grow and reveal unexpected sides? Not a hope.” MICHAEL COVENEY for THE DAILY MAIL says, “It is like bad Ibsen with zero plausibility.” NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, “A pale, thin melodramatic imitation of an Ibsen domestic tragedy.” LUCY POWELL for TIME OUT says, "Insipid and uninspiring"

    There is no ‘feast’ here, rather a poorly chosen menu that lacks a main course. This is not a theatrical gastronomic feast, rather a badly prepared buffet.


    External links to full reviews from newspapers...

    Evening Standard
    Daily Telegraph
    The Guardian
    The Independent
    Daily Mail

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