‘Dinner’ is a chilling dark comedy, written in 2002 by multi-award-winning playwright, Moira Buffini; now in her mid-50s, Moira lives in Cheshire – where the Ferry across the Mersey takes you to. Moira’s works cover most of the adult topics other writers fear to tackle. Like most of prolific writer Moira Buffini’s work, this play is raw and in your face. Brilliant.

This adult play ‘the meal from Hell’ premiered in London’s West End, at the Royal National Theatre. It can be seen at Stirling Theatre, Morris Place, Innaloo each evening at 8.00 on February 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20; with 2.00 pm Sunday matinees on February 7 and 14.

Stage manager Jocelyn Roberts and the waiter were kept busy, with 6 guests having 3 or 4 courses and copious rounds of drink, she must have had quite a catering establishment going in the wings.

The smoke machine was needed for an opening scene where a lady rides her bike along a narrow foggy lane. Instead of killing half the front row with a heavy handed bast, the smoke was fed into a 75 mm garden drainage tube laid under the apron. It filled the vomitorium (yes that is what it is called) between the audience and the stage, giving an excellent effect with minimal deaths.

The sound design and operation were by Ian Wilson. Some of the older audience members will remember the days of muffled gunshots and distant thunder with a dirt record needle clicking, but the quality today is superb.

Lighting design and operation by John Woolrych was well thought-out, picking out actors’ monologues with spots and general colour flood changes for the mood.

Throughout the play, the background visible through the conservatory windows, was of a cloudy night sky with a full moon. A touch of video magic from Kate Elder, Virginia Moore Price and Jocelyn Roberts the clouds drifted faultlessly.

The scene: November 2019. The glass conservatory at Lars and Paige’s luxury country home. The interior has been laid out for a special dinner.

The set was designed by the director: The large white frame of the conservatory has a sloping glass roof, high walls of windows with a double door leading out to the lawn and pool. There are various plants in pots, a coat stand and rack. The roof is bedecked with ivy and strings of LED warm festoon lamps. A large dining table to seat six, with oak chairs. The table has a white linen tablecloth. An arch, one each side of the stage leads to the kitchen and the other to the bedrooms.

Set construction: Ian Wilson, Leigh Siragusa, Peter Neaves, Virginia Moore Price with painting and décor by Leigh S. and Virginia. Numerous Properties, some hard to source, were obtained by Carryn McLean and Virginia.

Informative programme by Carole Wilson and an inviting clever poster by Fran Gordon.

Paige (Suzannah Churchman) is holding a special dinner to celebrate the publication of a highly specialised philosophy book by her husband Lars (Malcolm Douglas). She has invited around a select group of his friends, and even hired an expensive, top-notch waiter (Sean Bullock) to ensure her meal is memorable. As the curtain rises, we catch Paige flirting with the waiter.

Paige has carefully considered every aspect of the meal in order to please the strange mix of guests. One guest, Wynne (Kate Elder) is a successful artist who is a vegetarian, with zero tolerance for any meaty protein, and to save the planet arrives on her bicycle.

Lars’ best friend and fellow philosopher is a cheeky, fun-loving chap, Hal (Peter Neaves). He arrives with his new and much younger wife, Sian (Lara Brunini). Sian is an attractive and outspoken TV news reporter, so is seen as an immediate challenge to the randy, loud-mouthed ‘look at me, I am the centre of attention’ hostess, who could teach a sheepshearing school some new words.

The soup has been presented and the meal just starting when the doorbell rings. It is a young Scotsman who, in the dense fog, has driven his van into a ditch. This is Mike (Jacob Lane), a fellow with an outlandish occupation.

As the meal progresses, the smiles disappear, and a few home truths emerge.

This was director Virginia Moore Price’s debut at Stirling. Ginny is a WAAPA trained lighting designer and well proven actor. She has selected the perfect cast with vast experience, each ideal suited for the superbly written parts. Given the complex script, perfect and clear direction was called for. With the potential of having a static cast, simply sitting around the table, the director has managed to inject interest and keep the energy flowing. Ginny has also rolled up her sleeves and become involved in every other aspect of the production. Some directors even leave the lighting sound and props to solve themselves.

Wardrobe suggestions by Virginia and carried out by the cast.

Suzannah proves yet again why she is one of WA’s most sought-after actors. A big welcome to new immigrant, Malcolm Douglas who has a huge CV from UK TV and cinema, ranging from ‘Father Ted’ to ‘The Vikings’ – superb and a strong challenge to the wife from hell. Talented and relative newcomer Jacob is improving with every show. Peter, Kate and Lara were a strong unit with vibrant chemistry. Sean as the cool, unperturbable waiter was perfect.

A fabulous show that with 50% Covid audiences has left many patrons locked out.

This script needed a powerful, well focused director who could guide her cast through the demanding personalities and with Ginny they got it.

If you missed this season, the show is going to Bunbury in the near future.

Many congratulations to all, theatre at its best.

One comment

  1. Thank you so much Gordon, for you wonderful review. This is very inspiring and has made myself and the cast and crew extremely happy. Your kind words and option have made me feel very proud and thankful for having such a wonderful theatre community in Perth, thanks to you.

    Thank you

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