Edinburgh Fringe 2010
La Locandiera’ is Wonderland Productions’ latest experiment with the increasingly popular concept of dinner theatre. Translated by its director Alice Coghlan, this is their take on Goldoni’s comedy, in which everyone is in love with landlady Mirandolina – except the fierce Ulster gentleman who professes to hate women. A tale of love, hate, romantic rivalry and seduction, all over a five course meal.
‘La Locandiera’ is Wonderland Productions’ latest experiment with the increasingly popular concept of dinner theatre. Translated by its director Alice Coghlan, this is their take on Goldoni’s comedy, in which everyone is in love with landlady Mirandolina – except the fierce Ulster gentleman who professes to hate women. Piqued by his misogyny she decides to ‘use art to cut down, conquer and crush the barbarous, hard-hearted enemy’, a resolve that leads to intrigue, romantic rivalry and outright fighting amongst the tables.
The scene of the action is both an inn in eighteenth century Florence and Edinburgh’s most fondly regarded Italian restaurant, Vittoria. As you take your seat the distractingly bewigged head waiter Fabrizio welcomes you, destabilising the boundary between actor and audience as he fusses about filling your water and discussing the menu. Claire Jenkins’ Mirandolina is suitably engaging as the cleverly flirtatious landlady of the inn, playing her suitors off one another just as she reveals how she feels about them to us – or is she only flattering our vanity that we are worthy of being her confidants? The acting is all fine, engaging but not enthralling (certainly not enough to distract the diners from their sumptuous five course meal), but nevertheless entertaining. Well known songs that the audience are encouraged to join in with increase the feeling of revelry, so that if the plot isn’t exactly gripping at least everyone is having a good time. The overhead electric lights at full wattage were a distracting reminder that we were in present day Edinburgh rather than eighteenth century Florence. Had they been dimmed it would have been easier to suspend disbelief, particularly as the costumes were well done. The comic elements work well, and Damien O’ Donnell in particular displays an aptitude for comedy. What works less well is Mirandolina’s sudden capitulation in the surprising ending, which seems totally out of character with all that has gone before.
It would be churlish not to mention the food, which as might be expected was very good, although in honesty not a patch on an a la carte evening at Vittoria. Importantly, the intervals at which it was brought out worked well, without unduly interrupting the flow of the action. What was not so well considered was the placing of the actors in relation to the tables. I was sat in a corner and there were several times when I found myself listening to quite heated dialogue without being able to see what was going on. However, these are minor quibbles in what was on the whole an immensely enjoyable evening. Somehow it adds up to more than the sum of its parts: while I would separately rate both the meal and the play as good three stars, I came away feeling like I had a four star evening. As this is a site specific production, I think it deserves to get the credit for the synergy created by the marriage of play and place.