Left – Kenneth Ransom, Tasma Walton, Greg McNeill, Alison van Reeken, Rebecca Davis, Steve Turner. Photos – Gary Marsh Photography
Dinner by Moira Buffini is a deliciously dark comedy about a woman with an axe or two to grind. As far as dinner parties go, this one is memorable for all the wrong reasons. Imagine if you will, a psychotic host hell bent on revenge and delivering tasty morsels such as primordial soup, apocalypse of lobster and frozen waste.
Disturbingly entertaining, the Black Swan State Theatre Company serve up this surprising treat for the start of their 2015 season. If the quality of the rest of the year’s productions are as good as this one, we are in for a good year.
Director Kate Cherry has assembled a talented cast with well-known Australian TV actress Tasma Walton playing the dinner-party host, the unhinged and spiteful Paige. With utmost precision Paige has planned the dinner party from hell and every detail is accounted for, all overseen by the eerily silent waiter she has hired (Kenneth Ransom).
The action of the play takes place in the dining room. The stark furnishings, glass table and chairs and hard sterile surfaces, all mirroring the cold and calculating persona of our host. A terrible fog, billows around the outskirts of the house and finds its way occasionally onto the set, adding to the house of horrors feel.
First to arrive late for dinner is Wynne (Alison Van Reeken) the lovable, free-loving hippie. She enters the home like a breath of fresh air but soon has the wind knocked out of her by the jealous and foreboding Paige. Wynne, having recently found herself single after exhibiting a painting of her boyfriend’s genitals without his consent, has turned up alone. Paige’s well made plans are disrupted and she is outraged that Wynne has left her with an empty seat at the table.
Polite and determined to reflect all the bad energy, Wynne is first to congratulate Lars (Steve Turner) on the publication of his self-help book and asks Paige what she thought of it. She’s horrified to discover that despite holding the dinner party to honour her husband’s achievements, Paige hasn’t even bothered to read it.
The next unfortunate guests to arrive are glamorous newsreader Sian (Rebecca Davis) and her mismatched older husband, microbiologist Hal (Greg McNeill). These newlyweds are on a path to self-destruction and go to great lengths to degrade one another in public.
Commence the uncomfortable dinner party where Paige’s constant calls to the brooding waiter for more drinks combined with a severe lack of edible food, slowly lower the defences of Paige’s unsuspecting guests. Soon they are spiraling into an ever deepening misery which sees each of them revealing their darkest secrets.
Just when the action needs a lift, enter the random stranger Mike (Stuart Halusz) whose car has broken down in the fog. Reminiscent of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Mike turns up asking to use the phone, but before he knows what’s happening he’s trapped in the spider’s web and finds himself an unwilling guest for dinner.
As the evening unfolds, marriages dissolve, old love is rekindled and an unlikely alliance forms between Paige and Mike when he recognises a kindred spirit. Mike asks Paige if she’s considered his own profession, a life of crime. By now Mike is not the only person at the table that has realised Paige has an evil undercurrent, yet no one is quite prepared for the dinner’s conclusion.
Moira Buffini’s Dinner may not have the most original theme, but the cast deliver it well, making it fun and entertaining. Be sure to check out the moving lobsters and what the chandelier is made of, its little details like this that take the production up a notch.
Black Swan State Theatre Company presents
by Moira Buffini
Director Kate Cherry
Venue: Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA
Dates: 14 – 29 March 2015
Bookings: Ticketek Ph 1300 795 012