A fes­tive feast of fine act­ing

New York story is so well played it won’t leave you with in­di­ges­tion

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - MORE ON SUNDAY - MICHAEL MOF­FATT

Din­ner in Mul­berry Street Bew­ley’s Café The­atre

The play is an adap­ta­tion of Duke Humphrey’s Din­ner, a short story by Fitz­james O’Brien, an Ir­ish 19th cen­tury writer who spent much of his work­ing life in New York.

To have din­ner with Duke Humphrey was a eu­phemism for not hav­ing any din­ner. Michael James Ford’s stage adap­ta­tion has made some al­ter­ations to the story to give a slightly more cred­i­ble twist, but it’s still emo­tion­ally as it was in the orig­i­nal – a heart­warm­ing tale of true love tri­umphant.

There’s a dis­tinct flavour of Dick­ens’s Christ­mas Carol about it, but in­stead of Bob Cratchit’s poverty, we get the story of Dick and Agnes, a lov­ing penniless pair, hun­gry and down to their last bit of fire­wood in a 19th cen­tury New York slum. Agnes has turned down the pos­si­bil­ity of a fam­ily in­her­i­tance to marry the feck­less Dick, who has squan­dered the money he earned in Europe.

The pro­duc­tion is unashamedly aimed straight at the heart as a feel­good piece for Christ­mas, and there’s much to enjoy. The cen­tre-piece is a lux­u­ri­ous comic din­ner played out with imag­i­nary food, as Dick and Agnes pre­tend to be ser­vant and cook serv­ing them­selves a non-ex­is­tent menu of del­i­ca­cies. The lan­guage is flow­ery and es­o­teric as they go through their amus­ing pageant of make­be­lieve. But fun can’t stave off hunger and there’s just one trea­sured item left to be dis­posed of if they’re to sur­vive.

The cli­max is per­haps pre­dictable, and the end­ing is rounded off nicely tongue-in-cheek, but Ash­leigh Dor­rell as Agnes and Jamie O’Neill as Dick play so well to­gether, with some sup­port from Fabi­ano Rog­gio, that you’re will­ing to ac­cept the sit­u­a­tion and re­frain from any temp­ta­tion to cry ‘Bah, hum­bug!’

Dick and Agnes pre­tend to be ser­vant and cook, serv­ing them­selves a non-ex­is­tent meal

true love: Jamie O’Neill, Ash­leigh Dor­rell and Fabi­ano Rog­gio

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