Dinner in Mulberry Street – Bewley’s Café Theatre, Dublin

Reviewer: Rachel Rafferty

Writer: Fitz-James O’Brien

Adaptor: Michael James Ford

Director: Bairbre Ni Chaoimh

Bewley’s Café Theatre’s Christmas offering is a heartening tale of the endurance of friendship and love, in the face of adversity. It is Christmas time in 1857, and a young newly married couple Dick and Agnes Burdoon, find themselves down on their uppers in a tawdry tenement in New York’s notorious Lower East Side. Agnes, who once enjoyed all the trappings of her privileged upbringing, married beneath her station and was immediately disowned by her wealthy guardian.

Having neither work nor money the couple are at their wits end and yet by relying on their own creativity, they manage to stay joyful. For example, to ward off hunger and the freezing temperatures, Dick and Agnes partake in little games of role-play and make believe in a charming little ‘play within a play.’ The gastronomic journey we are taken on, is an epicurean dream; a delicious food fantasia that tickles the taste buds and scintillates on every level. This metatheatrical element is both very funny and beautifully performed. Sometime later, a fortuitous and intriguing twist of fate intervenes in the Burdoons’ lives, thus transforming their destiny dramatically.

The play is a clever adaptation by Michael James Ford from the original short story by Irish American writer Fitz-James O’Brien (1826-62). O’Brien, a playwright, and poet, who was originally from Cork also fought for the Union Army in the American Civil War, and subsequently died of his wounds.

Direction by veteran director Bairbre Ni Chaoimh, was seamless. Ashleigh Dorrell’s Agnes was the perfect combination of genteel femininity and underlying feistiness. While Kieran Roche’s Dick was performed with alacrity and great attention to the comic details. Both actors handled the language like natives, and their energetic movements around the small stage gave more life to the characters as well as adding to the fun. Fabiano Roggio as Giacomo captured the essence of a virtuous, well-mannered Italian businessman who never forgets a friend. The fight scene was particularly well choreographed and appeared completely natural. Costumes while authentic, appeared very high-class – with rich fabrics and detailed tailoring – for a poor couple. Dorrell’s sumptuous red dress and green shawl ensemble was both suitably festive and expensive looking. Presumably this was a dress from Agnes’ previous life as an upper-class society lady.

The soundscape by Ewan Cowley was atmospheric and nostalgic. Martin Cahill’s set design evoked the bare desolation and squalor of a nineteenth-century tenement dwelling.

Dinner in Mulberry Street has all the right ingredients for a festive story that inspires a message of hope and lifts the spirits; qualities we need now more than ever in the current rather depressing climate.

Runs until 24th December


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The Ireland team is currently under the editorship of Laura Marriott. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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