Reviewed by ReviewsGate’s Alexander Ray Edser at the beginning of its tour, Al Geary catches up with THE DISHWASHERS on the road.
THE DISHWASHERS: Morris Panych.
Theatre Royal: Tkts 0115 989 5555 www.royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk.
Full information: Birmingham Repertory Theatre.
Runs: 2h 5m: one interval: till 5th April.
Review: Alan Geary: 31st March 2014.
A strange, even puzzling, affair.
Old sweat, Dressler, older sweat, Moss, and newcomer, Emmett are dead-end dishwashers in the basement of a classy London restaurant. The Dishwashers takes us through a year, and there are personnel changes later on, but in terms of action that’s your lot really. It’s slow-moving, though it gains momentum after the interval.
It’s not at all plot driven. Instead it’s a play of character and ideas, mainly the latter. It’s a static, wordy evening, most of the words being spoken by Dressler (David Essex). And Essex, in a strong performance, doesn’t just speak them: whether by design or incompetence he often declaims them, at the audience.
He drops a hint that he’s done a stretch in chokey; but he doesn’t tell young Emmett much else about himself, except that because of “a clerical error” he’s only got one testicle.
In another Pinteresque touch, the beautifully observed set incorporates a dumb waiter, used for carrying crockery up to the kitchen. More crucially, there’s the incongruity between the status of the characters and the level of discourse; and the suggestion of menace, especially given the psychological bullying at the start.
And there’s a lot of talking past one another. Throughout the action the others are under the impression that Emmett’s a foreign immigrant simply because he says he read English at university.
Rik Makarem does a credible job as high-flying City boy Emmett, who’s fallen on hard times – with the smoking on the premises, this seems to be set before the 2008 financial crash. But not so Andrew Jarvis as old man Moss; over-made up and implausibly clad, he looks like a complicated cross between Fagin, the Ghost of Christmas Past and an Old Testament prophet.
Oddly, scenes are ended not with lights being dimmed or curtains being drawn; our rectangular view of the action is collapsed into a diminishing rectangle which disappears like a TV picture. Sometimes it’s done extra slowly – a gradually closing trap perhaps?
Perhaps we’re being offered a critique of contemporary wealth inequalities, or the iniquity (or merits?) of underpaid drudgery. Or perhaps not; Dishwashers is a strange, even puzzling, affair.
(Alexander Ray Edser’s review can be found at:
Dressler: David Essex.
Emmett: Rik Makarem.
Moss: Andrew Jarvis.
Burroughs: Jared Garfield.
Director: Nikolai Foster.
Designer: Matthew Wright.
Lighting Designer: David Plater.
Sound Designer: Dan Hoole.