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Dinner 18:55 review

Leeds Playhouse Creative Engagement production makes a meal of local memories.

Dinner 1855 at Leeds Playhouse Credit Anthony Robling
Dinner 1855 at Leeds Playhouse Credit Anthony Robling

The stage, or rather the table, is set for Dinner 18:55 at Leeds Playhouse this weekend. The product of a series of workshops from the Playhouse’s creative engagement programme, this one-act sitting serves up a series of vignettes exploring what it means to share a meal in 2019.

Through monologue, dance, mime and music, the cast retell half-a-dozen true stories ranging from the fantastic to the tragic. The show ably brings together young people and seniors to explore their life experiences at the dinner table, using theatre as a platform to study and reflect on key moments in their lives.

One tale explores a childhood association between naan bread and rejection, which continues to haunt to this day, whilst another reveals a cherished fish stew which everyone apart from a lost mother and her son enjoy. A particularly well-staged farce around the strategic poisoning of a huge family with a laxative provides some much welcome comedy too.

Dinner 1855 at Leeds Playhouse. Photographer: Anthony Robling

Dinner 18:55 at Leeds Playhouse. Photographer: Nick Singleton.

Maggie De Ruyck wrangles all of these ideas with inventive, lively direction and some simple yet inspired production design. Glass cabinet tables act as prop stores for knives, forks, plates and bottles which are also playfully used as instruments, whilst the 18-strong cast populates the stage with continuous movement and eye-catching business.

Whilst it’s relaxed and stripped down, Dinner 18:55 makes a meal of its memories and emotions, showcasing a belly full of ideas. It’s far from perfect or polished, but that’s part of the show’s real-world charm. The takeaway is not so much the final production, but the process of participation and collaboration between its generations — a prescient drive at a time where the media seems determined to divide and disconnect portions of our society. This is theatre and community in action; unpacking stories and flight-testing feelings. Well worth seeing, supporting and perhaps even having a taste for yourself.

For more details about becoming part of the Playhouse’s award-winning creative engagement programme, visit leedsplayhouse.org.uk/creativeengagement

Cast: Bernard Ramsden, Bethany Agaoglu, Bill McCarthy, Gill Powell, Harry Venet, Jacob Simson, Janet Sewell, Jemima Wells, Jonny Price, Lily-Mae Emery, Max Bownas, Pat Hartley, Pat White, Peter Bartram, Roslyn Bailey, Silvana De Paula, Stan Owens, Wisdom Iheoma Chibvogwv Director: Maggie De Ruyck Theatre: Leeds Playhouse Running time: 55 minutes Dates: 22 to 23 February 2019.

Book online at leedsplayhouse.org or call the Box Office on 0113 213 7700.

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