What to expect, when one is welcomed into Latvian House in Queensway by an eccentric Spanish butler, ushered up a grand flight of stairs and into a sumptuous, candlelit dining room, given a glass of wine and seated at a plate containing nothing expect a blind-fold? The answer is – expect the unexpected. For this is Dinner at the Smiths, an evening scripted by that master of the absurd, Eugene Ionesco.
Our glasses are full, but the food is nothing but words; words that dance, that swirl, that coagulate, that fill you entirely and yet leave you strangely unsatisfied and wanting more. The whole evening is about communication, both verbal and non-verbal, how it succeeds and how it fails. We are invited to make eye contact with our neighbours, to talk to them using the slips of paper provided, leading to a conversation of bilingual non-sequiturs which would have delighted the man himself.
Mr and Mrs Smith and Mr and Mrs Martin from The Bald Soprano are there, holding equally nonsensical conversations over our heads; the maid is there too – “I am the maid” – issuing a list of confusing instructions. Even the reclusive Ionesco deigns to grace us with a brief interview about his life and his views on the world from time to time. The play is in English and French; sometimes one, sometimes the other, sometimes both at once; even though much of the text is translated, a grasp of French is certainly an advantage.
It is a play about words, but it is also about letting go; letting go of conventions, of reserve, of received wisdom and of inhibitions. Director Marianne Badrichani clearly has the measure of both her subject and her audience; she has created a world of genius and beautiful folly and she drowns us in it, gently pushing us under until we have no choice but to give up and breathe it in. She and the cast take us by the hand and dance us through landscapes which are surreal, erotic and profoundly absurd, leaving us baffled, bewitched and, in some cases, breathless with laughter.
In truth, it is probably futile to seek a higher meaning to it all. Ionesco himself said it was nothing but Guignol – a puppet show – and that is probably the best way to look at it. If you are looking for an evening of ridiculous, surreal entertainment then look no further.
Review by Genni Trickett
This March, Mr and Mrs Smith invite you to an immersive, bilingual (French/English) theatrical experience, based on the works and words of celebrated absurdist playwright Eugène Ionesco. At this unusual dinner party, sat around a long table amongst the performers and glasses of French wine, you will be introduced to unexpected guests, have your senses played with and be made to eat your own words!
Ionesco/Dinner at the Smith’s
Director Marianne Badrichani
Performance Dates March 3 rd 2017 – April 1 st 2017 (Friday – Saturday, 7.30pm)