A festive feast of fine acting
New York story is so well played it won’t leave you with indigestion
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