Tuesday, November 29

Dinner With Groucho – Arcola Theatre

In ‘Dinner with Groucho’, Frank McGuinness tells the story of Groucho Marx and T.S. Eliot having dinner in a strange restaurant on the edge of heaven.

There is a brilliant moment in the play when Shakespeare is contradicted by the host proprietor of the restaurant. ‘To Be is to not be’ she says. Life is death. All past, present and future are now, have been and will be. It seems to echo the themes of Eliot’s ‘The waste land’.

The production is aesthetically lit by Paul Keogan with a unique combination of natural and artificial lights. Ingrid Craigie was the stand-out performer as the Proprietor. Her performance was fresh, unpredictable and seemed enigmatic -at the same time- clear. The absurdity in the play’s design shines because of the brilliant treatment by the director, Loveday Ingram. However, in several moments, it is felt that the humour of the play does not land. Perhaps it was about too many alien references? The mutual admiration between Groucho and Eliot seems repetitive and halfway through, one waits for the surprising moments achieved by dance, music and magic. Apart from a few conversations, the characters seem to be justifying where they come from, but not how they have been affected by the conversation which would change where they will be or they have been.

Photo: Ros Kavanagh

Imagine two old men hanging out and discussing the absurdity of life, death, and alcohol. The familiarity between Dinner with Groucho and Waiting for Godot is uncanny. Both written by Irish playwrights. What separated TS Eliot and Groucho from Vladimir and Estragon is merely a bottle of champagne. The Godot can be alluded to the strange woman who does not have a name but waits the table and seems to be omnipresent.

It is endearing to see Groucho and Eliot being so open to one another. It is apparent throughout the play that they are unhurried and have a sincere and pure connection with each other. ‘Dinner with Groucho’ is running at The Arcola Theatre till 10th December 2022. https://www.arcolatheatre.com/whats-on/dinner-with-groucho/

Reviewer: Akshay Raheja

Reviewed: 21st November 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★