Dinner parties tend to go one of two ways. Or, so I thought…
The first is that you’ve somehow managed to axe out all the people you dislike and end up having a marvellous time with amazing food, good wine and fabulous company.
The second is that you end up awkwardly trying to not give eye contact to the boring couple for fear of being locked in drab conversation, whilst trying to avoid causing a huge argument because your ex is sat at the other end of the table with their new partner. At the end, you say your fake goodbyes and hope to hell that’s it for another year.
Then, as I found out on Friday, there’s a third way. You know, the one with Primordial Soup for starters, Apocalypse of Lobster for the main, Frozen Waste for dessert and for the evening entertainment – instead of Trivial Pursuit and some After Eights – think about how you would murder someone, how you would commit suicide and be forced to speak the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Yes, Darkroom Theatre Company played out their version of Moira Buffini’s ‘Dinner’.
The environment and tone were set perfectly from the off. The former C&A store in the Brunel Centre was transformed into a middle class Macbethian-style cold manor, in which this black comedy slowly unravels. Think of a really slow car crash that you can’t help but watch. It’s sharp, satirical and gloriously entertaining (if you’re into drama over dinner that’s served with dry mockery and tension you wish you could cut with a knife there and then).
The dinner party is held by the most sinister and pedantic of hostesses – Paige (Laura James) – to celebrate her husband’s – Lars’ (Kevin Bray) – best-selling self-help book. It would become evidently clear that the book could have proved quite useful to all dinner guests including the eco-warrior/free spirited artist – Wynne (Ella Thomas) who has her own thing with Lars – the know-it-all and sensitive intellect – Hal (Paul Marks) – and his new girlfriend/’newsbabe’ – Sian (Cerys Hodgkin). But that’s not all. As it turns out Wynne’s politician boyfriend left her and much to Paige’s dismay there’s an empty seat. But it just so happens that what this dinner of horrors needs is a van driver – Mike (Harry Freeman) – who crashes in the fog and is in need of a telephone (and – because why not – some passive aggressive table talk). The final character is not a guest, but the silent waiter whom Paige is having on the side (when she’s not barking orders at him).
I won’t lie, it was a long play indeed. But, how fitting. Yes, our hostess Paige (Laura James’ savagely hilarious bitch of character) drags the guests through one of her infamous dinner parties to reveal the grotesque nature of the bourgeoisie – a table so consumed by themselves that they don’t understand the irony of the dishes. Until, of course, our not-so-silent waiter reveals his grim true purpose to serve the coldest course: revenge.
‘Dinner’ rang to me as ‘The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie’ (Luis Buñuel) meets ‘Weekend’ (Jean-Luc Godard) – a complete dishevelment of the bourgeoisie, with all the favourable stereotypes who played their part to a tee. Laura James made a stellar impression, and was ricocheted off splendidly by Ella Thomas, combined with the polar opposites that were Cerys Hodgkin and Paul Marks. It had everything you wanted: scandal, fake happiness, murder and allegorical meals. Indeed, a terrible dinner party but marvellous entertainment.
What I love about Darkroom Theatre Company is that I always want to see what they’re doing next – and where it will be. For further information visit www.facebook.com/DTCswindon/