DINNER WITH THE 42’s. Written by Scott Sparrow. Directed by Greg Karvellas. With Emily Child, Nicholas Pauling and Brent Palmer. Design by Niall Griffin. Baxter Masambe Theatre.
KAREN RUTTER reviews
When The Pandemic struck, many of us didn’t know if we would make it through to the other side – or what that side would look like. Writers (Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Deon Meyer spring to mind, but there are so many more) fed into our dystopian fantasies; films and series even more so. Which makes the scenario presented in Dinner With the 42’s feel strangely familiar in its bleakly futuristic imagining. Zeitgeist theatre. Gotta love it.
Not that Scott Sparrow’s script so much as mentions Covid, or any other kind of disease. It’s just that it’s set some time hence, when humans are in danger of extinction, not much is left on the planet, and a totalitarian system is in place. Hey, with the current climate crisis, the rise of neo-nationalistic politics and Handmaid’s Tale legislation, it’s not that hard to believe.
Strangers Eva and Burn find themselves paired up in a Human Breeding Facility, where they have to produce a child or become food for the stronger members of the “tribe.” As the tagline says: Breed or be Eaten. But for both of them, simply getting down and doing the dirty doesn’t sit comfortably. Burn, who has clearly been indoctrinated for much longer than Eva, knows what must be done but is awkwardly conflicted. Eva, who is a recent arrival and appears to have been “outside” until her containment in the facility, suggests enacting an ancient ritual to get things rolling – the First Date. And so the games begin …
Heterosexual mating patterns
The script is absolutely hilarious as it bluntly deconstructs heterosexual mating patterns. With Eva deciding their “date” is in a restaurant, every move from calling a waiter to eating oysters becomes charged. As the scenario becomes increasingly bizarre, the word play remains impeccably on point.
And the delivery! What an absolute joy and privilege to watch long-time theatre partners Emily Child and Nicholas Pauling in action once again. They’re on top, top form as they inhabit their individual characters and interact together. Child’s Eva is a blend of tightly-wound and robotically naïve, while Pauling’s Burn is an awkward, self-conscious mess with low self-esteem and high anxiety. They are perfect.
And then there’s Brent Palmer, in a whirlwind of a role representing “Management” in the facility. Cruel, camp, menacing and outlandish, his arrival interrupts the tentative relationship burgeoning between Eva and Burn, as he asserts his dominance over both parties. It’s yet another star turn.
I don’t want to give anything away, so won’t dwell on the denouement. Suffice it to say that the length and pacing of the play works superbly. Niall Griffin’s minimalist set totally encapsulates the atmospherics of the work. And director Greg Karvellas once again works his magic, getting the most from his highly talented cast and this darkly hysterical script.
Sitting in the small Masambe Theatre, watching this team who know and work together so well pull off a splendid piece of truly independent theatre, I was reminded of the dynamic years of the Alexander Bar. It felt good to be back.
Go and see this work, if dark humour, a sharp script, incredible acting and wonderful direction are your thing. Really, just go.
What: Dinner With The 42’s
Where and when: Masambe Theatre, Baxter from 8 to 19 November 2022
- Dinner With The 42’s is intended for mature audiences, carries an age restriction of PG16 and contains sexual themes/language and acts of violence.