Printable CopyAFTER DINNER
The State Theatre Company of South Australia
Dunstan Playhouse
Until 29 Apr 2018

Review by Janice Bailey

Playwright Andrew Bovell is best known for his highly acclaimed “Secret River” and “Things I Know to be True”. The comedy, “After Dinner”, currently on offer at the Dunstan Playhouse is a very different genre from the two aforementioned plays, but it is quite brilliant in its own right. The characters are so well-defined that they are an absolute delight for everyone involved – especially the director, the actors and the audience.

Set in a 1980s bistro, the five eclectic characters come together for very different reasons. Essentially they are all lonely souls and unhappy with different aspects of their life. From the Director’s notes, Bovell wrote the original play in response to an event he witnessed in a suburban Melbourne pub – long before on-line dating and social media.

Played superbly by Jude Henshall, Dympie is an uptight, inhibited and controlling friend who ‘organizes’ the less confident Paula to attend these regular ‘outings’. Ellen Steele is brilliant in her characterisation as the wide-eyed, eager to please Paula. Rory Walker delivers a flawless performance as the hapless Gordon who sees himself as a failure in life, until Stephen, played with just the right amount of bravado and empathy by Nathan Page, convinces him that he needs to assert himself and take advantage of the situation.

Then there is Monika who has been convinced by Dympie that ’a night out with the girls’ is just what she needs after the untimely death of her husband. Elena Carapetis is outstanding in her portrayal of a character who starts out as the grieving widow and blossoms into the confident, sexy woman who realises what she has been missing out on for so many years.

Designer Jonathan Oxlade has designed a set that is not intrusive but practical and effective and creates just the right ambience to allow the characters to tell their story. Nigel Levings’ lighting design and Andrew Howard’s sound design work very effectively to showcase the characters.

Director Corey McMahon has assembled a fine cast and together they have brought to life Andrew Bovell’s beautifully delineated characters to provide an hilarious, bittersweet story which will resonate with anyone who remembers the 80s and essentially anyone who is looking for love and fulfilment in their life. The appreciative audience on opening night attested to this.