Theatre Royal, Newcastle, and touring
It is every awful dinner party you have ever attended. Albeit exaggerated for their comedic value, Moira Buffini's host, hostess and guests, the undercurrents, the pretensiousness, the domestic rows simmering under the surface (and occasionally bursting out into full bloom), the sexual tensions, the bitchiness are very real. Yes, the style is absurdist - how else can we describe a menu consisting of Primordial Soup, Apocalypse of Lobster and Frozen Waste? - but it merely highlights the reality.
This is a very funny play which sends up the chattering classes with great aplomb. As in real life, it is difficult to separate the posturing from the reality of the characters and so the dénouement, although telegraphed throughout, still came as something of a shock
It was a success (with a different cast) at the National's Loft and then at Wyndham's, and is now touring with Stephanie Beacham playing the role Harriet Walter created in London.
Miss Beacham, as the hostess from hell, achieves that so-hard-to-reach point of making you feel that you can't imagine anyone else playing the part. Equally impressive is Patrick Ryecart as her husband, in whose honour the awful (and doomed) dinner party is given.
I was also much taken by Louise Jameson, who achieved the feat of having been onstage for five minutes before I realised who the actress was. As for Gay Roslin, she may have had less stage experience than the rest and for that reason I confess that I did not expect much from her. I was pleasantly surprised!
Crispin Redman, Liam Smith and Mark Hayford complete an excellent cast.
Philip Fisher reviewed the original production at Wyndham's Theatre in 2003
Reviewer: Peter Lathan