Kitchen Diva | La Boite Theatre CompanyA three-hander written by Brisbane playwright Norman Price and directed by Linda Hassall, La Boite’s latest commissioned work, Kitchen Diva, works from a simple premise. Unhappy birthday boy Joe is preparing dinner for his ex-wife Meagan. Things aren’t going well and are complicated further by a visit from his dead mother Dinah who emerges from the pantry complete with beehive and marabou trim to belt out nostalgic numbers and assail Joe with disturbing anecdotes from his childhood.

After striking a bargain involving a prized set of false teeth, Joe convinces Dinah to go back to where she came from (presumably hell) once Meagan arrives. But dinner with his ex takes a horrifying turn as, in the course of dredging up bad memories, Joe and Meagan turn on each other with gruesome consequences.

Anyone who is familiar with the wonderfully dark work of Brisbane-based playwright Norman Price will have an idea of what to expect. His work takes audiences into suburban homes, rips up the floorboards and reveals the bodies buried underneath. Price has called Kitchen Diva his most personal work yet, a rich compost of memories unearthed after the death of his mother and follows a path familiar yet utterly alien.

The script, although too long for the format, is heavy with dark potential and draws the audience irresistibly in as layers of horrifying truths are slowly revealed. It’s intelligent, ironic and disturbing material and it’s a great shame that Linda Hassall’s direction made little of these qualities. What could have been a black cabaret gem comes across instead as a conventional comedy with a few song and dance numbers thrown in.

As the suburban bloke with a serious dark side Ron Kelly plays it straight as Joe. As Joe’s narcissistic nightclub singer mother Dinah, Elizabeth Ross can really belt out a tune, performing with a dynamic energy which propels the action through a couple of flat patches. In the difficult role of Joe’s brittle ex-wife Meagan, Georgina Symes brings a warm humanity to what could have been an entirely unsympathetic character and I found the scenes which reveal the core of her discontent, set eerily to Do You Wanna Dance?, the most moving in the entire piece.

The roundhouse theatre is the perfect venue for a piece like Kitchen Diva. Some of the audience were seated on stage and became part of Dinah’s showstopping numbers, a well received collection ranging from Johnny Cash to Lorelei. The spare design however, was disappointingly lackluster considering the black material.

It’s hard to know what to make of Kitchen Diva. The audience loved it and sure, there’s enough singing, high kicking and marabou trim to qualify it as cabaret, but it presents more like a drawing room farce. I walked out feeling that an opportunity to exploit a witty, dark script had been missed and couldn’t help thinking about what it might have been with meatier direction.

La Boite Theatre Company presents the World Premiere
Kitchen Diva
by Norman Price

Venue: Roundhouse Theatre, Musk Ave. Kelvin Grove Urban Village
Dates: 12 – 28 June
Times: Tues & Wed 6.30pm, Thurs-Sat 8pm
Matinee: 2pm 28 June
After Show Discussion: 20 June
Tickets: $44/$37
Bookings: or 3007 8600

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