After the applause died down at the end of I Am Not A Dinner Mint at the Diesel Playhouse, performer Rachael Lea-Rickards made a few remarks, during which she specifically thanked the few men who had attended the performance in spite of perhaps hearing that it was one of those “angry man-hating plays.”
Interestingly enough, for a piece subtitled The Crap Women Swallow To Stay In A Relationship, it was striking how easily men were let off the hook. Most of the scalding and rueful examination came at the expense of women themselves, and the way so many allow passivity and negative self-worth to undermine them during the course of their relationships. A few male thugs and careless villains populate this world, but the writers mainly concentrate their fire on their female enablers.
Talk of thugs and villains aside, the many insights contained in Dinner Mint are full of playful humour and fun. For example, one short piece describes straight women wishing they were lesbians — partly in order to have someone to go lipstick shopping with. If any scalding occurs, it’s obvious that the mainly female audience in the theatre was quite happy to be confronted and to have their own insights and beliefs represented and confirmed.
Rickards not only performs, but has also cowritten this piece with director Trey Anthony. No doubt as a result, she is by far the most confident actor on stage and her scenes by far the strongest. Her chilling monologue about an abusive upper-class relationship is the dramatic highpoint of the play.
As far as the other performers are concerned, perhaps Jemeni, Graziella Mastrangelo, Aktina Stathaki and Mandeep Kaur Mucina would seem more at ease with their slightly formal monologues if director Anthony allowed them more freedom of movement on stage. Forced to sit or stand quietly in the background when it is not their “turn,” the supporting actors are too physically static. Choreographer Janice Nixon could surely not have been happy with the limited amount of movement that the actresses were allowed. Perhaps as a result, I saw an early performance that was paced too slowly. As the actors grow in confidence they will no doubt speed up, thereby making a better impression on succeeding audiences.
It is a shame audiences are not being treated to more of the musical art of singer Belinda Poolay and drummer Tanya Matthews. Poolay has a wonderfully expressive voice that could have been better used as an effective and emotional counterpoint to the actresses’ words. Granted, the performers are self-producing this piece and “shoestring” is an apt description for some aspects of it, but if you have decided to hire two obviously talented musicians, then why not give them more to do and more stage time? The show is apparently attracting a younger, female, multicultural audience; some real musical excitement would pay off big-time in extra impact and enjoyment.