Edinburgh Fringe 2010
So, here it is: "Miss Sophie’s birthday and she’s holding a dinner party with her closest friends who unfortunately are all dead. Step forward faithful butler James, who once more must fill the gaps and do his best to guide the party through four drink-fuelled courses. ‘Same procedure as last year Miss Sophie?’ ‘Same procedure as every year James.’ A theatre version of the legendary 60s film comedy classic ‘Dinner for One’, loved by millions across Europe. Directed by David Lavender, starring Chris Cresswell and Miriam King. "
What a delightful gem of a show Dinner for One is. David Lavender directs Chris Cresswell as James, the butler to Miriam King’s marvellously ancient Miss Sophie in a staged version of Lauri Wylie’s vintage comedy film. Just fifteen minutes long, this theatre version stays true to the original which has achieved, for reasons not quite known, cult status in Germany, where it is known as Der 90. Geburtstag.
By taking no liberties with the original film version, what we have here is a faithful rendition, and it is this faithfulness that is part of the show’s delight. It really is worth watching the original before savouring this younger wine of a comedy reproduction. It captures all the tastes of the vintage while offering up something refreshingly sparkling – the fact of it being a theatrical version, of it being live. The comedy is light, infectious and very watchable, as well as enjoyable. It’s worth seeing more than once. And the visual material has aged pretty well. Cresswell looks as if he were born to play James though I have a sense it will get tighter and tighter as the run progresses.
Chris Cresswell gives Freddie Frinton a run for his money while also adding a hint of his own natural clownishness which adds extra zest to our laughter at his tripping, tray and glass carrying antics. This is a butler who gets progressively drunk, and though not a new conceit, this extended sight gag builds and builds and the reference point of the original film adds to the spectacle.
There’s simple clowning at the heart of it and the genius of having the confidence to allow a simple plotline to command the piece. The faithful direction of David Lavender and the loyal service to the original in the performances of the two actors are hugely impressive, giving the piece both an ornate and yet also a refreshingly comedic feel. We laugh, not only for its light and laughworthy comedy theatre, but also at the playful audacity to bring it to the stage.
A priceless gem of a show.