Words By: Freya Parr
Dinner is an absolute visual feast. I was, as usual with Black Swan, completely taken aback at the standard of production from the minute I entered. Written by Moira Buffini, the play portrays a disastrous evening dinner party, hosted by socialite Paige Janssen, for the release of her husband’s new self-help book. With an eclectic mix of guests and an enigmatic waiter, Paige presents a series of strange meals, all making artistic statements, and reminding the guests of their own insignificance. As the narrative unravels, we realise that Paige’s aim for the evening is to force her guests to confront their biggest secrets and demons.
The characterisation for the most part was excellently done. Paige as a character stole the show, and was played by Geraldton-born Tasma Watson. She was such a turbulent character, and her complexity brought an incredibly different dimension to the play. Her relationship with the waiter was of particular interest, as so many questions were left unanswered, and for me, that is the mark of a good play. I like to leave with a sense of doubt, rather than a solidified conclusion. It was very clever writing on the part of playwright Buffini. The only thing I found slightly disappointing was the lack of exploration of the character of Sian, the newsreader, and new wife of her microbiologist husband. Their relationship was explored, but I left feeling as though I knew nothing of her individual character, which was a shame.
The set for Dinner was, in typical Black Swan style, superb. The ultra-modern window frames acting as the border for the stage opened up at the beginning, inviting us in to join the action. I was at first concerned with how the dinner scene itself would be staged around the table, because I thought it might have been rather static. However, my worries were soon set at ease, when the centre piece in which the furniture was placed started slowly revolving, allowing us to see all the characters at different angles and perspectives. It had the dual effect of appearing like a ‘Lazy Susan’, creating the illusion that the guests themselves are part of the dishes being served up for Paige to devour. Trent Suidgeest, the Set and Lighting designer, did an incredible job in creating the perfect atmosphere for the action. There was fog present throughout the whole performance, seen behind the Japanese-style screening, and whenever doors were opened during the action, the fog would flood in, particularly during the climactic moments of the performance, which was an extremely effective technique. My favourite aspect of the set was the chandelier, seen hanging over the top of the table. It was created out of hundreds of pieces of cutlery, a feature subtle enough to not be invasive, but also one that perfectly complimented the action.
In the transition between certain scenes, classical music was played, to reflect a typical soundtrack to a civilised dinner party. As the action went on, the music became progressively more modern and intense, which created a feeling of frenzied panic. The performance as a whole was 1 hour 45 minutes, but had no interval, which I felt was a shame. The intensity of the black satirical comedy was fantastic, but I did feel as though a break would have been helpful, to digest what we’d seen, and prepare for the second half.
The costumes used in this production were wonderful. Each of the three female characters wore dresses designed by local WA designers, creating a great collaboration, because the shape and style of each piece was so different.
I really loved Dinner. I thought it was slicker than any other Black Swan piece I have seen so far, and the writing was brilliant – the black humour was right up my street, and the social issues it raised were really thought-provoking. Every aspect of the performance had been considered in great depth, and the overall cohesion was fantastic.
Dinner is on at the Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre of WA, from 14th-29th March.