Review: The Dinner
Take one part absurd comedy, one part awkward dinner with your parents, and a dash of glorious manicism, and you have The Dinner, a unique improv show currently being played at Circa Theatre.
Being performed for the first time outside of Europe, this play brings together five dinner guests (four friends, and a new acquaintance), for a meal that none of them will ever forget. What’s the twist? Well, the entire thing is improvised. All the actors know is their character, and their relationships with the other guests, which the audience helps provide at the start of the show.
At the start of the show, we’re separated into five groups (one for each of the performers), and taken off into corners of the theatre to help divine their characters. Upon being asked a series of questions, the audience gives answers, and then each performer must adopt those traits, backstories or outfits into their character. Some gems from my group included, “What will I be like in ten years? – Married to Alan with three cats,” and “How do I dress? – 80s retro.” From talking to the other person I was with, some of the other suggestions from his group were quite saucy.
From there, we move into the the theatre. The actors are given a few minutes to acclimatize themselves to their roles, dress up in a violent array of costumes, and memorise the excess of information we’ve just given them – and then the show begins.
It’s a wild mismatch of a show, but hilariously funny and very enjoyable. The performers do an admirable job of holding their roles, especially in the face of such adversity – (one character was simultaneously a huge fan of Donald Trump, and yet very aware holistically and kind to his friends) – and the show is incredibly well performed.
My only issue is with the handling of some of the content.
Audiences of a certain flavour and social class find certain things funny, and that can lead to pitfalls when they’re allowed to suggest character traits to improvisers. However, it would have been nice if the mere mention of gay and trans characters in the show weren’t treated as cheap shots.
While not advocating for the censorship of certain types of content, there are definitely ways to steer an audience away from seeing minorities as comic relief, and I don’t think the performers did their best to negotiate that dynamic. I absolutely didn’t expect to come for a nice night out and be greeted with mild transphobia and homophobia (due to the handling of the audience’s suggestions), but unfortunately, myself and my companion were.
In all, though, The Dinner is a fun show. Due to its improvised nature, the content, characters, and tone change every night, so it’s definitely worth seeing in the theatre.
The Dinner is being performed at Circa Theatre in Wellington from now until the 25th of August. Tickets are available here.
For the special Visa Wellington on a Plate pre-show dinner special, click here!