Written by Rebecca Duke
Directed by Holly
ACT Hub Theatre,
Kingston to 11 February
Reviewed by Len Power 9 February 2023
Part of the ACT Hub’s Development Program, “At Dinner” is
the world premiere of a new play by emerging playwright, Rebecca Duke.
At a restaurant, a young couple meet for dinner after spending some time apart. They seem ill at ease and their conversation is decidedly awkward. As the evening progresses, their waitress is unwittingly drawn into this couple’s complex power games.
The strength of this new work is in the dialogue and character development, which mostly captures the subtleties of these complex young people. The dialogue for the girl, Anna, is particularly well done, leaving us puzzled by and interested in what is motivating her behaviour. The young man’s dialogue gives the feeling of a person out of his depth and desperately trying hard to make the evening a success. There is, maybe, too much awkwardness in the dialogue for his character early in the play.
Thea Jade gives a strong, unnerving performance as Anna. Timothy Cusack is also fine as Eden. The waitress was well-played by Nakiya Xyrakis.
|Thea Jade as Anna
Having the auditorium set up as a restaurant with tables created the right ambiance but the young couple’s table placed at a higher level on the stage made it less involving than if they had been down at auditorium level amongst the other “patrons”. This had worked fine with ACT Hub’s last production, “The Importance Of Being Earnest”. The noise of the waitress’s footsteps while walking around amongst the audience’s tables was distracting at times.
One plot point did not ring true. It seemed unlikely and unprofessional that a waitress in a reasonably classy restaurant like this would invite only the girl, in front of her partner, to drinks with the waitress’s friends afterwards. Maybe the girl should be the one to ask the waitress if she could join them?
The director, Holly Johnson, has given this play the right amount of light and shade in the interaction between the characters in a restricted setting. It also runs at a good pace.
The ending of the play is a surprise. Whether it’s the ending the audience member wants will probably vary from person to person. It’s certainly unexpected.
Emerging playwright, Rebecca Duke, has done a fine job
overall here and it will be interesting to see how her work progresses in the
This review was first published in Canberra City News digital edition on 10 February.
Len Power's reviews
are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’
programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at https://justpowerwriting.blogspot.com/.