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Norfolk Tourism Awards

The dinner party from hell a recipe for success in deliciously black comedy

PUBLISHED: 18:59 06 April 2018 | UPDATED: 19:00 06 April 2018

Dinner at the Sewell Barn Theatre. Photo: Sean Owen

Dinner at the Sewell Barn Theatre. Photo: Sean Owen

Reflective Arts

Sewell Barn Theatre serves up a Norwich premiere of Moira Buffini’s deliciously satirical black comedy Dinner, complete with recipes that are definitely not Delia Smith.

Dinner at the Sewell Barn Theatre. Photo: Sean OwenDinner at the Sewell Barn Theatre. Photo: Sean Owen

Dinner parties can delight and entertain; they can also cruelly humiliate and end in tears.

Moira Buffini’s deliciously satirical Dinner, the latest production at Norwich’s Sewell Barn Theatre, is on that ever-recurring theme, the dinner party from hell.

Buffini’s deliciously bad-taste comedy does both, mixing familiar and unfamiliar ingredients to create startlingly original drama - exploring the frustrated lives of the rich and apparently successful, whilst creating recipes that are “definitely not the kind of thing you find in Delia Smith”.

Fabulously elegant Paige is throwing a celebratory dinner in honour of her husband, Lars, and his best-selling pop psychology book ‘Beyond Belief’.

Dinner at the Sewell Barn Theatre. Photo: Sean OwenDinner at the Sewell Barn Theatre. Photo: Sean Owen

She has been preparing the menu for months and even employed a professional waiter especially for the occasion. But revenge is a dish best served cold.

Achieving five star reviews when first performed in London in 2002, Dinner has not previously been seen in Norwich.

The director of the Sewell Barn Theatre’s production, Jen Dewsbury, was attracted to the play “because it made me laugh out loud on public transport.”

He adds: “If I wasn’t directing, I would have loved to be in it. The characters have many layers, complicated relationships and wonderful one-liners. You wouldn’t necessarily want to be friends with any of them, but being a fly on the wall is hugely entertaining. And if everyone drinks their wine, we would get through eight bottles in Act 3 alone. “

Dinner at the Sewell Barn Theatre. Photo: Sean OwenDinner at the Sewell Barn Theatre. Photo: Sean Owen

Buffini herself has explained its combination of seriousness and humour: “I deliberately made the characters in Dinner intelligent, educated, liberal, selfish, miserable people, with a spiritual and moral vacuum at their heart. It’s a tragedy really – there’s blood on the carpet, the lead character is suicidal – but I got away with it because it’s so bloody funny.”

Dinner balances the surreal with satire, creating characters that are viciously unpleasant yet with recognisable flaws and failings.

The challenges of its production included sourcing (and saucing) the props. It is important to emphasise that no animals are harmed during performances, however realistic the lobsters may seem to be - notwithstanding that the dilemma of the party guests is whether they should be boiled alive or liberated.

Paige (played by Ginny Porteous) is the venomous hostess who has carefully planned the four courses of ghoulish gastronomy in honour of Lars (Trevor Markworth).

Dinner at the Sewell Barn Theatre. Photo: Sean OwenDinner at the Sewell Barn Theatre. Photo: Sean Owen

They are joined by his ex-flame and provocative eroticist, artist and vegan, Wynne (Harriet Waterhouse); government microbiologist, Hal (James Thomson); and his ‘newsbabe’ wife, Sian (Sabrina Poole).

Also an uninvited guest, Mike (Will Harragan) who has crashed his van in the fog. A sinisterly efficient waiter (John Holden), hired for the occasion, completes the ensemble.

• Dinner runs at Sewell Barn Theatre, Constitution Hill, Norwich, until April 14, 7.30pm, 2,30pm April 14, £9 (£7 cons), 01603 626414, sewellbarn.org.uk

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