INTERVIEW: DINNER with Alison Van Reeken

No live lobsters will be harmed in the making of Black Swan State Theatre’s upcoming production of Moira Buffini’s Dinner, according to Alison Van Reeken. Van Reeken plays Wynnein the production, an artist who also happens to be a vegetarian and animal rights lobbyist, so her character would be happy to know that BSSTC is doing its best to keep the show humane.

Apparently this has also been a concern for some patrons who have phoned up the company to ask whether there will be real live lobsters, and whether any would be hurt or killed in the name of theatre. But Van Reeken assures us that props designer India Mehta and her crew have been hard at work to find a suitable substitute, having constructed fake lobsters with mechanised moving parts.

EDIT: You used to be able to Read the full interview on X-Press here.


Van Reeken features in this ensemble cast of six Perth actors alongside film and television actor Tasma Walton as Paige, who plays the hostess of a dinner party for a group of upper crusters in celebration of the release of her husband’s self-help book. “It’s a black comedy, so there are some quite dark moments that are undercut by this warped humour,” says Van Reeken. “The play speaks to the kind of hypocrisy that people exhibit and the lies they tell themselves,” she says.

Her animal-loving character is also sleeping with the hostess’s husband Lars (Steve Turner), so there is some moral ambiguity at play. “His self-help book is all about seizing the day, and not being dragged down by inferiority and all that kind of awful new-age philosophy, so I think that’s sort of why my character has no problem taking someone else’s husband, because it’s obviously her fault for being inferior, not mine” says Van Reeken.

Wynne is an idealist who, we learn through her reminisces with Lars, once identified as a post-feminist lesbian; but she’s also quite dumb according to Van Reeken, who says “it’s been a challenge to withstand all the hostility on stage towards her from the other characters. When we do it over and over again, I just feel like, won’t somebody just listen to me without rolling their eyes?”

Although her character is the most broadly written for comedic effect of all the dinner guests, she says “there’s a lot of depth to the work as the play unfolds and the masks come off. They characters are pretty detailed renderings and there will hopefully be something there for everyone.”

On a side note, one of this production’s unique features is that each of the women’s dinner dresses have been created by three different fashion designers; Alvin Fernandez (ae’lkemi) is designing for Tasma Walton, Michelle Tindale (t i n d a l e) is designing for Rebecca Davis and Sheree Dornan of Love In Tokyo is designing for Alison Van Reeken. “Dornan does a bit of homewares and shoes and she’s a bit of an artiste when it comes to beautiful fabrics and vintage pieces, so it suits my character because it’s all about texture and layering. It’s been really exciting to watch these designers bring what they do so well to the work.”