It’s all an absurdist farce – an 80s style, synthesised, Bladerunner inspired soundtrack by The Unrecorded underpins the cult horror inspired action that twists and morphs out of recognition on stage. The Thing That Came To Dinner by James Carney has physicality, human puppetry and a very scantily clad storyline. The alien that invades an inner circle of dinner party guests spawns an alt-murder mystery, which shouldn’t work for this reviewer. It should feel cheap, superficial and uninspiring.

But it does work, a combination of committed cast, ingenious choreography (Rachel Rapisardi) and cleverly woven storyline by Carney that mixes and combines to create a pleasant, otherworldly piece of cult theatre. The actors build the scene from the ground up as their physicality mutates and warps, placed into character like a mannequin or marionette. Personalities are over expressed and forced for comic effect, exaggerated without seeming out of place in this over the top setting. The comedy itself is teased out of both the lines and the pauses, inflections that emphasise stereotypical characteristic traits by the likes of Sami Abu Wardeh and Angus Dunican.

It all starts with the gruesome death of Bellerophon the dog and some grubs in a bucket of Norwegian ice – what better way for an alien invasion? The surrealism of the situation is magnified by the overt personalities of each character – from the haughty upper-class hostess, Balvinder Sopal, to the rebellious daughter, Karla Marie Sweet. It’s a set of caricatures that endears the audience to Carney’s story, mixed in with some spoof jumps and frights of a farcical nature.

But Carney’s comedic writing also has moments of ingenious subtext – social faux pas and conventions catch us off-guard with unexpected laughter. Carney himself has a touch of the Mr Bean about him. The Thing That Came To Dinner is indeed niche, a jam-packed hour that sneaks up on you and taps you on the shoulder. The cast eke out every possible laugh they can and are generally met with success. This is not a sub-genre for everyone, but it does stay true to its ideals.

 

 

★★★☆☆

The Thing That Came To Dinner ran as part of the VAULT Festival. For further information, please visit the venue website.