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Review: QUT’s The Man Who Came to Dinner


Sheridan Whiteside, the man who came to dinner as portrayed by Jasper Foley. Image by Fiona Cullen

By Nahima Kern

The Man Who Came to Dinner

by George S Kaufman and Moss Hart

Directed by Jennifer Flowers

Gardens Theatre

George Street

Brisbane

Performances have now ended

Most people have that one person they feel obligated out of kindness, to invite into their home, whether it be a neighbour, or an old friend or acquaintance.

It’s also that one person who makes the skin crawl just a bit and makes you wish that time would inch forward faster so as to get that person out of the house. If you don’t, just nod and play along. It’s easy to imagine. And what would happen if someone, for whatever reason, was thrust over your threshold unwillingly? Now there’s trouble just waiting to happen…

As the play began to unfold, my impression of it, did not waver. The intensity of the actors’ performances was so great, that at first it was a little startling.

It began with quite a bit of shouting and general clamour and ended in the same way. In between, the audience was in absolute stitches over the hilarious and outrageous antics of the main character and his supporting actors.

What I liked about the show though, was a number of things, but chiefly I have to say, was the set. The set design was absolutely exquisite, with everything one would expect of a rich, bourgeois family. Tastefully decorated, and painted all in red, it lent a rich and warm atmosphere that juxtaposed the antics that sprawled throughout the play.

The Man Who Came to Dinner, was a play which debuted in 1939 (according to Wikipedia) and subsequently was adapted across various mediums, such as the 1942 film starring Bettie Davis.

It is the story of the Stanley’s – Ernest and Daisy – a nuclear family living in Ohio with several maids and butler at their beck and call. They soon become host to a man with peculiar tastes, and even more peculiar friends, named Sheridan Whiteside.

A prominent and famous radio host, Mr Whiteside becomes their guest by injuring his hip whilst slipping on an errant piece of ice outside the home of the Stanleys. He is forced to convalesce in their home and as the play unfolds, becomes the sort of guest that no one should have to suffer.

He appropriates their staff for his own, meddles into their affairs, and causes such mayhem that by the end of it everyone is up the wall. He does so, all with an unbelievable rudeness and eccentricity that was sometimes so funny it hurt. Written by George S Kaufman and Moss Hart, The Man Who Came to Dinner was performed by the QUT Bachelor of Fine Arts (Acting) Students. It was directed by Jennifer Flowers, designed by Bill Haycock, with lighting designed by Glenn Hughes.

I have to say that each of the actors shone through in their performances marvellously.

The chemistry between each of them was incredibly tight, with each actor bouncing off one another to create such a riot. It did not discriminate from the smaller roles to the larger ones. Characters such as Sarah, the maid,(Indigo Hallet) the much abused nurse, Ms Preen,(Middison Burridge) to the suave Beverly Carlton,(Rowan Chapman) the unfortunate secretary, Miss Cutler (Cynthia Howard) and completely bamboozled actress Lorraine Sheldon (Sophie Dillman), the eventually mad in both ways Mr and Mrs Ernest Stanley (Jackson Blair-West and Matilda Brown) and their children, the eccentric Harriet Stanley (Chiara Osborn), with a dark secret, to the oft neglected Dr Bradley (Mackenzie Fearnley), lucky Mr Jefferson (Patrick Jhanur) and finally, Sheridan Whiteside, himself played by Jasper Foley – just to name a few. The play began, as I mentioned earlier, with much clamour and shouting, the intensity and energy the actors exuded was something I have not seen or felt in the theatre for many a year, in all sincerity. I sat there feeling more than a little anxious at times as the emotion pouring out of the actors wended its way out into the auditorium by projecting their heightened emotion and transferring it to the audience.

The play began, as I mentioned earlier, with much clamour and shouting, the intensity and energy the actors exuded was something I have not seen or felt in the theatre for many a year, in all sincerity. I sat there feeling more than a little anxious at times as the emotion pouring out of the actors wended its way out into the auditorium by projecting their heightened emotion and transferring it to the audience.

And so, to conclude; The Man Who Came to Dinner, performed by the QUT Bachelor of Fine Arts (Acting) students was an energetic and intense play about an odious man who overstayed his welcome in the home of most unfortunate people. The set was gorgeous, the actors were all well matched to their roles and played them with such vitality that I believe has not been seen on any stage for quite some time. It was definitely a show that I would have liked to see again, and perhaps will, some day.


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