Reviewer: Anna Ambelez
Jay Rayner, restaurant critic, writer, broadcaster, journalist and TV personality. This tour is called My Dining Hell after his latest book containing a number of his worst restaurant critiques. As Rayner says, “…we are always fascinated about other people’s terrible experiences”. Someone else having a worse day makes us feel better, generally about ourselves and our day.
The youngest son of the prolific writer, broadcaster and renowned Agony Aunt, Claire Rayner, he also is an author having three novels published and was named Young Journalist of The Year 1992 at The British Press Awards. Rayner graduated from Leeds University in 1980, where he was editor of the Student Newspaper; he then joined The Observer where he is now resident food critic.
Opening My Dining Hell with an amused annoyance in sometimes being confused with the chief Marco Pierre White (being similar in appearance); he confesses to several things that really irritate him about restaurants in general, such as Menu Language e.g. Basil Enthused Pasta?? And descriptions like oven roasted (where else are you going to roast it?). This is illustrated with slide and video footage to highlight these annoyances. As Rayner jovially says “all expense is spared!”
He connects well with the audience, interacting with them in a remarkably relaxed, informal way. He is at home onstage, chatting as to a friend, sprinkled with antidotes and interspersed with witticisms, as on restaurant names, “you could call a restaurant ‘Pussy Galore’ as long as it wasn’t a false promise”. The main course is extracts from his book.
The shorter second half is in essence a Q&A session. While he answers with alacrity, this has to depend in some measure of success in the questions asked. It could possibly be amusing to relate some of the more idiotic questions he has been asked, as he himself says, people like to hear about disasters. The addition of scenes from some well-known classics like, Faulty Towers or Monthy Python, to highlight points, would add variety, but copyright may prevent this.
While sartorially reminiscent of an unmade bed, his tongue is very smart and sharp. Rayner washes over his audience like a fine wine, warming and satisfying.
He is well known to many for his TV Master Chief appearances, which have earned him the nickname ‘Acid Rayner’ due to his somewhat sour demeanor. However there is no sour demeanor shown on stage. Only wit, humour and entertaining conversation – a veritable raconteur. The Gala audience responded well, loving his performance, reflected in the long queue afterwards waiting to get his book signed.
Reviewed on: 25th February 2015