by Torben Betts
The White Bear Theatre, 138 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4DJ to 31 August 2014
Tues – Sat 7.30 pm Sun 6pm
Runs 2hr One interval, till 31 08 14
TICKETS: 0844 8700 887
Review: William Russell 14 August
A dinner party from hell. A heavenly production.
It is January 2010, the earthquake in Haiti has left a hundred thousand people homeless. In Muswell Hill Jess, a businesswoman, and her writer husband, Mat are giving a dinner party and giving the occasional thought to the horrors happening in Haiti they are learning from the news as good, socially aware middle class folk do.
This is Mike Leigh, Alan Ayckbourn country, Bett’s twist being to set the action entirely in the kitchen, that home from home for everyone when things at a party start to go wrong and go wrong in spectacular, hilarious and painful fashion they duly do. We never actually see them at table.
The play was first seen at the Orange Tree in 2012 to considerable acclaim and this is a first rate revival directed by Roger Mortimer-Smith. Jess – Annabel Bates in fine fettle struggling to keep things from descending into chaos – has to cope with her child husband, Mat, played by Jack Johns with loads of surface charm concealing the fact that he is actually an untalented leach who enjoys being kept while writing his masterpiece, not to mention their guests.
They include her alcoholic sister Annie, Tony, a sixty year old theatre director and drama teacher with whom she is infatuated, and who adores collecting posh totty like her but regrets having been kicked out by his wife, Mat’s nerd university friend Simon, who blames capitalism for everything, and Karen, her neurotic friend whose husband has killed himself and who is off the booze and a vegetarian. It is a ripe old mix, the jokes are good, and when tempers get lost the eruptions are volcanic.
Gregory Cox is splendid as the self obsessed thespian, and Nicole Abraham matches him as his talentless protégé. Alastair Natkiel creates a most disturbing, creepy nerd and Fiona Rodrigo is terrific as the sort of dinner guest a hostess dreads.
Jess: Annabel Bates
Mat: Jack Johns
Simon: Alastair Natkiel
Karen: Fiona Rodrigo
Tony: Gregory Cox
Annie: Nicole Abraham
Director: Roger Mortimer-Smith
Designer: Nancy Surman
Lighting Designer: Jack Weir
Fight Director: Andrei Zayats
Assistant Director: Deborah Edgington