It’s been an amazing week for Dinner at the New Wimbledon Studio and we’re thrilled to be able to share an amazing review from Sarah over on Musical Theatre Musings as well as the NODA Report from London Rep Tony Sweeney.
NODA Show Report
This was the first time I had seen a production by Putney Light Operatic Society, though I was aware of their reputation. This is only the second drama they have ever done, but based the high standard of both performance and production values the diversification has proven very successful. An interesting play with strong drama, a winding plot that fooled you to the shock ending, this was a good night’s entertainment.
The drama was helped by the setting, the Wimbledon Studio is a small and intimate theatre space which itself draws you fully into the action. The play takes place around a dinner table setting and you almost felt like one of the guests.
The characters were diverse and somewhat dysfunctional and the intensity between them was the underlying rationale for the play’s setting and ultimate impact. Some deep symbolism ran through the play the first course primordial soup, the name given to the origins of life. The dessert of frozen waste emphasising desolation and decay.
Nicola Roscoe as the hostess gave an excellent performance as the cold and vengeful Paige. She played the part as a real bitch, clearly in an unhappy and loveless marriage and deeply frustrated by it.
Mark Andrew Smith, (Lars) as the other half of a disastrous and stifling marriage, played his part with real venom, which at times was close to exploding. As the reason for the dinner party, he was really uncomfortable with it and put this across throughout the evening.
Jean-Pierre Agius (Hal) as Lars’ friend had a fairly casual persona which worked well to counterpoint the atmosphere created by the warring couple. An excellent piece of work I felt.
Gemma Ronte (Sian) was tall and elegant as the second wife of Hal. She clearly had issues around the nature of her fame as a newsreader and the image this projected. A little uncomfortable with discussions around Hal’s first wife, she contained these well and gave a spirited performance throughout.
Kristen McGorry (Wynne) had something of a young Madame Arcati about her which gave her a quirky quality. As Lars’ ex-lover her selection as a dinner guest was a little unusual on first sight, but this became clearer as the play progressed. She is obviously an accomplished actor when delivering slightly unusual characters and seemed to take well to the role.
Ian Ward (Mike) as a lost and wayward lorry driver who crashes the party gave an excellent performance as a working class individual who was a real contrast to the rest. Indeed this contrast worked brilliantly in drawing out some of the themes around class and privilege which underlined the plot.
Rob Malone as the ever present waiter had only a couple of lines yet was a strong and central presence throughout. His posture was just right for the role and gave him a quiet authority which worked brilliantly.
Paul Dagley clearly loved and was fascinated by this play and managed his cast well to get some stunning performances from them. His use of the stage space was also good and he used this to good effect too. Great vision translated into great performance is a real winner.
The stage management worked well with items being moved around the table using blackouts to delineate the scenes. All entrances and exits were well worked and natural which helped give the play presence.
The sound was clear and audible with the players able to project to every member of the audience. Clarity of tone also helped and it’s clear this was an excellent group of actors who understood their craft.
The lighting worked well in separating the scenes. The levels matched that you would expect in a domestic situation adding to the subtlety.
The make-up was good reflecting the characters being depicted. Subtle and sufficient it added to the presentation.
The set was a huge dinning table for six which although it dominated the space was ideal for the setting. Dark and full of dramatic undertones the authentic looking table almost acted as the arena for the character interplay.
The props were mainly around the dinner table and helped project the feel of wealth and the social status of the host and hostess. A glass fell off but this was dealt with well by the cast on stage.
The costumes were interesting in that the diverse types did not make you think this was a coherent social group with shared ideas and values. Indeed as the plot moved on this became all too apparent.
The programme was well designed and gave us a good insight into the director’s vision which I think enhances the audience experience. The bios were good and showed the range of talent on show.
Front of house
The front of house was provided by the theatre and was very professional. A small part of the audience had gathered before the doors opened and this proved quite a talking point with some unsure of the venue. Tickets were well managed and the bar at the interval well stocked though having to walk across the stage to get too it is unusual.