Dinner Party Money

Wallace Trust Gallery, 305 Queen Street, Auckland

11/08/2009 - 15/08/2009

Production Details


A darkly comedic new play from the writer of Loser and the Mall.

Having released a torrent of plays onto the Auckland fringe scene before taking his work to the world late last year, Thomas Sainsbury gives us yet another highly charged and provocative script to digest at our pleasure. Now based in London, Sainsbury’s awkward signature style is still ever present  in his new play about the facades and  actual thoughts of one’s dinner guests. Over the past few months Sainsbury has also released three other plays: The Needies, Cindy and Eric go to Hell and Little Blonde Hen.  

Directed by Roderick D. Morgan fresh from his successful season of The Tempest, for the University of Auckland’s prestigious Outdoor Summer Shakespeare, Dinner Party Money is set to prove the maturity of a young director ready to dive back into the exciting world of fringe theatre.

An ensemble cast of Auckland’s emerging and seasoned talents Alexander Gander, Helen Burns, Jonathan Riley, Edward Clendon and Samuel Bowen Partridge.

When struggling poet Stian is invited to a dinner party by a rich philanthropist, Winnie Mellor, he expects only opportunities. It soon becomes clear that Winnie’s intentions are far from innocent as she begins using her power, influence and generous offerings to support Stian’s artistic endeavours and, more importantly, ensure she gets what she wants from him.

Along with the other guests, Garth the experimental film maker, Martin the stylish fashion designer and Kim the Pilipino house maid what we see is a cautionary tale about the dangers of lust and greed.

Tuesday 11th – Saturday 15th August 2009
Wallace Trust Gallery
, 305 Queen Street, Auckland City
Tickets $15, Student $12 on the door. 

For more information please contact-
Freddy Kingsley, Aglet Associates

Alexander Gander, Helen Burns, Jonathan Riley, Edward Clendon and Samuel Bowen Partridge

Interesting scenario lacks chemistry

Review by Sian Robertson 12th Aug 2009

Dinner Party Money is a callous study of people using each other for their own social and material ends. Winnie (Helen Burns) is a wealthy middle-aged patron of young, struggling (mostly gay male) artists. She invites a poet, a fashion designer and a painter to dinner, and tries to play them off against each other. It’s obvious they all want her for her money, but an interesting twist is that there are many different types of wealth on show here – youth, talent, money, time, sex – and the characters in the play use whatever currency they possess to trade for what they need, be it hard cash, companionship, security, social standing.

Stian (Jonathan Riley) is the new boy, who’s not actually gay (or is he?), and who’s a poet looking for a patron to fund his first book (or is he?). The hostess is the last to enter the scene, allowing the pretty young men the requisite amount of time to first eye each other up and gossip about her.

It’s Stian’s first time at one of Winnie’s notoriously debauched dinner parties and fashion designer Martin (Edward Clendon) fills him in on the traditions.

Stian is a nervous, whiney, indecisive prat and throughout the whole play he vacillates between wanting to run away and resolving to stay and degrade himself as Winnie’s toyboy so he can get his paws on her money. Jonathan Riley does the jittery, naive straight boy quite well, but his performance gets a bit monotonous in pretty much one gear the whole way through. This is all the more unfortunate as he’s the central character.

It’s an interesting scenario, but the acting is a bit lethargic. Quite possibly this was just a symptom of opening night stiffness, but I felt the performances overall were a bit flat. I understand the director (Roderick D Morgan) has gone for a naturalistic fly-on-the-wall approach, but there are too many pointless pauses in the dialogue, which have the effect of dissipating tension rather than building it. Many good lines are left to die a natural death.

None of the guests or the hostess are very animated and for a large part of the play there’s not much going on except for Stian’s scantily concealed plan to part the rich bitch from a few wads of cash, and his objections to more booze and non-vegetarian food. There’s a lack of chemistry between the characters, as if the actors are unsure what’s expected of them.

Helen Burns’ Winnie is unconvincing – there was nothing to make me either sympathise with her or dislike her – she’s far too bland for someone who supposedly likes to be influential, risqué and domineering. Garth (Alex Gandar) is a similarly nondescript character.

The only real exception is Kim, the Philippino dancer, played by Samuel Bowen Partridge. It’s a physiological relief every time he enters a scene. He’s effortlessly funny and pitch-perfect. Kim feels trapped; he lives with Winnie, all expenses paid, including his dance tuition, and in return he cooks and cleans and puts up with her criticisms.

Edward Clendon also breathes life into some otherwise bland scenes, as Martin, who is elegant, insightful and completely cynical and the most believable character.

Thankfully, the ending is a bit more colourful. Leaving behind the soporific earlier scenes, the tone switches to a farcical thriller, in which the characters finally act out their desperation and base instincts.
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