Dinner 18:55 is a heart warming and eye opening portrayal of the importance of intergenerational relationships; a realistic look into just how important it is for society to look past age and share experiences. Through verbatim vignettes brought to life by a diverse cast, the audience is drawn into the friendships that have been made through the course of the 6 months spent developing this community piece – and ‘community’ really is the perfect word to describe it. From heart breaking stories of difficult childhoods, to stories of family recipes passed down and hectic Christmases in huge families, this production is an emotional rollercoaster full of love and understanding that brings the whole room together.
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Maggie de Ruyck, director and dramaturge of the production comments that ‘it seemed to be an important time to encourage conversation and collaboration between generations when society, politics and the media increasingly polarises older and younger people’ – it is clear to see throughout the performance just how close this little community has become, and the genuine bonds projected through the script writing and staging brings a warmth to the theatre, welcoming audience members with chatty conversational participation and sharing personal stories as If we are friends.

Clearly designed with versatility in mind, the set is focused heavily around three moveable and magnetic glass tables, decked with lights and filled with various props; this includes simple plates and cutlery which are often taken out and placed onto the tables to symbolise the family dinner – however these are also used to create found music as a sort of soundtrack to the transitions of the piece. This is a particular high point of the performance, as these moments of music and togetherness created in perfect time and harmony highlight just how in sync the cast are with one another, and brings an interesting dynamic to the performance; where the transitions are a little messy and slow. This musical element distracts from that and breaks up the vignettes extremely well.

Performances particularly worthy of note are those by Max Bownas and Stan Owens, who both give beautifully heartfelt monologues; Bownas expressing frustration at society and Owens sharing the sadness and anger at being let down by family and the effect it has on a child, both creating a beautiful tension and sense of understanding that are absolute stand out scenes. Bringing comedic value to the production, Jonny Price brings back the light hearted atmosphere with his cheeky personality, and the ensemble as a whole present themselves as one big family.

Although this may not be the most technically perfect and polished production, it shines with a love and appreciation for the differences that can create incredible friendships and a deeper understanding of relationships – and shows its audience just how important it is to set the table, sit yourselves down and make time to share a story or two.

Dinner 18:55 is the culmination of a 6 month long community project between the Older People’s Programme and Young People’s Programme at Leeds Playhouse.

Review written by Hazel Kaye.

Dinner 18:55 was shown on Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd February 2019 at the Leeds Playhouse. To find out more about the production, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop