THEATRE – After Dinner – State Theatre – Dunstan Playhouse – 3.5K

By Peter Maddern

Andrew Bovell’s first play takes us back thirty years to what seems like a snapshot from another world – friends going out together to pubs on a Friday night to catch-up, wind down and see what’s possible, all unarmed by the modern menaces of mobile phones and their internet dating services.

Set in some Melbourne dive in a plain and otherwise vacated dining room, a distance so it seems from the stage where the band will play after dinner, we meet our three thirtyish girlfriends and at a different table two similarly aged mates.

On the left table, a tightly wound bundle of fear of the unknown Dympie (Jude Henshall), is joined first by the gregarious Paula (Ellen Steele) and then Monika (Elena Carapetis) still mourning from the shock loss of her husband to a stroke.  On the right, the repressed Gordon (Rory Walker), in his own shock for his wife walking out on him, meets up with the perennial playboy Stephen (Nathan Page.)

As the play develops the tragedies of all their lives get revealed in a rich pathos of love gone wrong and sharp wit and farce.

It’s hard to separate the five players but Jude Henshall’s Dympie and Rory Hancock’s Gordon are perhaps the best with brilliant moments interspersed from Elena Carapetis.

There is nothing easy about directing this type of comedy but Corey McMahon does an excellent job, allowing the stories of all his characters to develop before mashing the inter-relationships up brilliantly in the second half. Of course, Boivell’s lyrical writing style helps set the audience up for a farce squarely but not too personally directed at ourselves.

Not exactly thinking person’s theatre but a sure winner as night out.

Kryztoff Rating        3.5K

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