Writer: Morris Panych
Director: Nikolai Foster
Reviewer: James Higgins
In the basement of a high class restaurant lie a small band of manual plate scrubbers that themselves seem to exist on the fringes of society. Not for The Dishwashers the creak of machine and clunk of the automatic cleaning systems. Every single plate, bowl, ramekin, tumbler, fork, spoon and knife that the dumb waiter delivers are painstaking cleaned by hand. This is a job without reward, delivering optical perfection without a smear as a backdrop to the chefs artistry, essential to the continued success and financial well being of the business yet without grateful acknowledgement from above.
Nikolai Foster has drawn parallels with Orwell’s autobiographical work Down and Out in Paris and London and believes The Dishwashers also provides a chance to introduce us to characters we wouldn’t meet on a day to day basis.
Designer Matthew Wright brings us right into the bowels of the building with his intelligent set, detail is key in creating a world below stairs where the philosophical thoughts of head washer upper (Dressler) and his colleagues never leave the room. Lagged pipes and a metalled door onto a dark alleyway add further to the sense of isolation from the moneyed diners that sit on the floors above, seldom heard apart from the occasional muffled din and never seen.
Dressler (played by the evergreen David Essex) has seen it all before, a man who takes pride on perfecting the art of spotless plates and gleaming cutlery. He’s been up to his elbows in suds for decades, he knows his place but is in charge of his own destiny. He has opinions and controlled contempt for the people in charge. Dressler’s right hand man is Moss (Andrew Jarvis) a feeble shadow of a man, he is old and ill, bitter about missed opportunity, confused and tired from a long hard journey compounded by numbing manual labour. They are joined in the pot room by Emmett (Rik Makarem) who Dressler refuses to address other than ‘new boy’ as he has not yet proved himself and like many before him may not stay the course. Emmett has come on a very different journey, he is neither philosophical and accepting of the job or a washed up has been. He had money and once ate in the very same restaurant he now rinses plates in but has fallen on hard times and aspires to turn his life around.
There is lots of fast paced, laughter inducing dialogue as the debate swirls endlessly on the meaning and direction of their lives and whether Emmett should settle in his new vocation or try to ascend the greasy ladder once more. David Essex as the man in charge of the brushes and Rik Makarem as the ‘new boy’ exhibit great on stage chemistry as they duel in words and philosophy. Andrew Jarvis delivers a convincing performance full of energy as the hapless, shuffling old timer.
The Dishwashers introduces the audience to an well written but unknown play, with a small cast and a single set. This enables us a wider window on a world that is seldom seen and allows for a deeper exploration of the characters as human beings in their own right.
Photo: Manuel Harlan : Runs until March 8th