Theatre in Wales

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A wonderfully exhausting, entertaining delight.

Don't Dress for Dinner

3D , Chapter Arts Centre Cardiff , May-22-07
Don't Dress for Dinner by 3D A Welsh speaking theatre company performing an English language play with Gaulish origins in French accents – sounds farcical and it is! After last years successful production of Abigail’s Party, 3D Theatre Company have taken a shine to witty, exaggerated comedy and I have to say they wear it well.

Morals are not welcome in Marc Comoletti’s frantic tale of adultery, mistaken identity and confusion, instead audience members must come equipped with alert minds and a good tank full of fuel. The setting is tranquil; we are in a lavish converted barn in the middle of the French countryside. The mood is excitable, with an air of anxiety floating with a jagged edge, cutting the tension as it passes. The hot-blooded Bernard thinks his demure wife Jacqueline is going to visit her mother for the weekend, and has taken full advantage of the situation by inviting his model mistress Suzanne to stay along with his clumsy best friend Robert. That is about as simple as it gets as from here the confusion and bewilderment sets in like acid, frantically eating away at any rationality with ravenous pace. Unbeknown to Bernard, his wife is having an affair with Robert, and when hearing on his planned attendance cancels her trip to stay with her mother. A now fraught Bernard insists that Robert must pretend that Suzanne is his mistress, but when left alone in the house Robert mistakes the hired cook Suzette for his new lover…exhausting isn’t it! To cut a long story short, when the real Suzanne arrives she of course has to pretend to be the most glamorous cook on this planet and it all goes from bad to worse.

Of course, being a farce it is essential that there are as many doors, exits and entrances as possible, and here we have 5 in total toensure that the rapid speed of the text is not interrupted. The set is as colourful as the lives of the characters with two large red sofas with multicoloured cushions as our main focal point. To oil the proceedings a tall book shelf is the home to the array of spirits that loosen the tongues of the passionate group.

The youthful cast show all the spirit of their age whist holding the theatrical maturity needed to control a text such as this. Beth House is highly entertaining as the hypocritical Jacqueline who can wrong but refuses to be wronged. Her exhausted husband is played with all the comic melodrama of Basil Fawlty on a bad day by Giles Thomas who, must be exhausted at the end of each performance.

Richard Shackley received a riotous response from the audience displaying excellent comic timing and brilliant facial expressions, Shackley portrayed the ham fisted Robert superbly. Nia Wyn Jones confirms her eminence as a brilliant comic actress with her performance as the far from elegant cook Suzette. Jones completely submerges herself into her portrayal of this brazen, boyish clown who is used as a tool for her employer’s deceit and is hilarious throughout. Rhodri Lewis’ short but sweet performance as the blood stained, meat cleaver wielding husband of Suzette brought a positive burst of energy towards the end of the production and revived any audience members suffering from farce exhaustion.

The entire cast perform with convincing and comical French accents throughout, and must be commended for the consistency. Gareth John Bale has succeeded in directing a challenging piece of comic theatre that could so easily have turned into a melodramatic, embarrassing nightmare. However, thanks to intelligent guidance and evident commitment from a variety of talented local performers Don’t Dress for Dinner is a wonderfully exhausting, entertaining delight.

Reviewed by: Amy Stackhouse

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