Playwright Andrew Bovell has written some iconic Australian films, such as Strictly Ballroom and Lantana. But back when he was a new grad from the Victorian College of the Arts in the 1980s, he and his actor friends were out of work. So he wrote them a play.
The play eventually became “After Dinner”, first performed in 1988. Watching it in 2015, it’s full of the confidence and sharp, almost loud-mouthed satire that possibly only a young, cocky playwright with little to lose could inject into it. But it’s also impressively insightful.
Bovell has described the play as “a black comedy about five lonely and sexually frustrated people looking for a good time on a Friday night and not finding it.” Nothing much happens, but the five characters are slowly and a bit agonisingly revealed, as is 1980s Australia.
The Sydney Theatre Company’s production is a good night at the theatre, with plenty of chuckles, and the era well-realised, though a number of the creatives involved were probably mere babies in the 1980s – the director Imara Savage and designer Alicia Clements, for example. Kudos to the actors, all five of whom were ridiculously convincing as a group of awkward people in an ‘80s bistro on a Friday after work: Anita Hegh, Rebecca Massey, Josh McConville, Helen Thomson and Glenn Hazeldine.
But that dance music at the end was what had the middle aged audience smiling and nodding, no doubt carried back to their own days at the bistro.
Here’s a review.