Snobbish upper-class English hostess Paige (Caroline Brazier) wants to serve up some interesting fare for her guests, including murder, after a series of get-the-guests games in which all are complicit.
The ostensible excuse for this extravagant dinner party is the launch of husband Lars’ (Sean O’Shea) book called Beyond Belief, which she hasn’t read but we are led to believe is new age pop philosophy.
A great fan of the book is Wynne (Rebecca Massey), a lover of Lars in their university days who has recently become single and has swallowed Lars’ views hook line and sinker. Wynne seriously upsets Paige’s seating arrangements when she turns up alone.
The other invitees are a scientist Hal (Brandon Burke) and his youthful wife Sian (Claire Lovering), a glamorous newsreader.
Working-class Mike (Aleks Mikić) turns up as an unexpected visitor and upsets the self-satisfied equilibrium of this bourgeois group.
Although Paige is the chief instigator, this gathering manages to destroy any vestiges of friendship through their mutually exchanged insults, many of which had the audience laughing uproariously during the show.
The quiet presence of the unforgettable Bruce Spence in the role of the waiter, which must be one of the easiest roles he’s ever been asked to perform. Nonetheless, he plays a crucial role in bringing this sharp-tongued satire of the British upper crust to a surprising — and bloody — denouement.
Director Imara Savage has extracted maximum bile from her charges, while composer Max Lyandvert manages to provide an ironic comment through his score and designer Elizabeth Gadsby has created a subtle but effective interior for this excoriating work.
It is difficult to fault the production, but I do wonder why it is being staged in favour of, say, a classic David Williamson (forget the dispute between him and the STC), or another home-grown work. We give few enough opportunities to our own playwrights and should consider them before mounting productions from elsewhere, in my humble opinion.
Until Oct 28. Drama Theatre – Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney. $61-$102+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.sydneytheatre.com.au or Ph: (02) 9250 1777
Reviewed by Irina Dunn.