Written by Rebecca Duke – Directed by Holly Johnson
Lighting and Sound Design by James Tighe – Set and Costume design by Nell Fraser
Performed by Thea Jade, Timothy Cusack and Nakiya Xyrakis
ACT Hub Feb: 9 – 11.
Performance on 9th February reviewed by Bill Stephens.
A young couple meet for dinner at a restaurant following a separation of some months. Over dinner they grapple to rekindle the dynamics of their previous relationship.
This is the premise of “At Dinner”, a new play by Rebecca Duke, given its first staging as the inaugural presentation in the ACT Hub development Program.
For these performances the auditorium of the ACT Hub is set up as an attractive restaurant with the walls decorated with wine racks and with the audience seated around tables unwittingly becoming voyeurs to the conversation of the young couple whose behaviour becomes more and more bizarre.
|Thea Jade (Anna) - Nakiya Xyrakis (Pearl) - Timothy Cusack (Eden)|
Although the staging is necessarily static, Rebecca Duke’s naturalistic dialogue effectively keeps the audience guessing as to the motives of the couple. Why is the young woman being so unresponsive to her partner given that they have clearly been in a long term relationship and are meeting again after a long separation?
Several possibilities present themselves until an impulsive invitation from the waitress narrows those possibilities significantly. However the reaction and response of the woman’s partner to the invitation is not as expected, until eventually, the young couple hatch a cruel plot to humiliate the waitress, providing the play with its intriguing denouement.
As the young couple, Thea Jade as Anna and Timothy Cusack as Eden give convincing, naturalistic performances. Similarly Nakiya Xyrakis has clearly boned up on correct waiting procedure, and her performance as Pearl should set up a strong demand for her services among local restaurants.
Holly Johnson has drawn excellent performances from her cast. Having waitress, Pearl, move among the audience at various points helped overcome some of the inherent static nature of the play, but more variance in the pacing and fewer meaningful pregnant pauses might have prevented interest sagging in the middle.
Nell Fraser’s clever use of the existing ambience of the Hub to suggest a busy restaurant worked well. On opening night that restaurant was full. However, Pearl’s leisurely loitering, together with the absence of restaurant clatter or background music, made it feel at times as though Anna and Eden were the only customers. Perhaps this was intentional.
With “At Dinner” Rebecca Duke has crafted a useful little play which will respond well to multiple casting and presentation possibilities as well as providing an auspicious launch vehicle for the ACT Hub’s Development Program.