Review: The Big Meal, by Dan LeFranc, HighTide Festival, Halesworth, April 13

The Big Meal by Dan LeFranc, directed by Michael Boyd at the HighTide Festival in Halesworth

The Big Meal by Dan LeFranc, directed by Michael Boyd at the HighTide Festival in Halesworth - Credit: Archant

Set in a suburban restaurant, this drama tells the story of an “ordinary” family over a period of 80 years.

The Big Meal by Dan LeFranc, directed by Michael Boyd at the HighTide Festival in Halesworth

The Big Meal by Dan LeFranc, directed by Michael Boyd at the HighTide Festival in Halesworth - Credit: Archant

Youngsters meet, fall in lust or love, get married, have children, squabble, cheat on each other, stay together or apart, have grandchildren and die.

There are few happy moments as the play focuses on the internal tensions, strife and tragedies of family life.

It is a very clever piece of work, incredibly well directed by Michael Boyd and also beautifully and energetically acted by a very committed ensemble cast of eight, including two very talented children.

It is also a very American play in terms of the culture it depicts. Dialogue often over-laps as the “mouthy” adults and children create a cacophony which is barely tolerable at times. This is the family from hell if you happen to be at a nearby table in the same restaurant.


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But, dramatically, the cacophony is a great tool for highlighting the quiet, sad, reflective moments - the moments of sorrow and grief when thoughts speak to the audience louder than words.

An isolated dink of a piano key marks each lapse of time as actors effortlessly move down the line of the family’s generations.

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Plates of brightly coloured food are eaten by characters about to die, in “last supper” scenes watched by other family members - symbolism perhaps for a whole, colourful life consumed.

There is a great scope for confusion in interpreting this script but director and actors combine to leave the audience in little doubt as to the identity of the quickly evolving characters.

Too “sassy” and American to have much hope of a long run here in the UK, this bleak but dynamic drama still provides a directorial and acting lesson but as a mirror on the cycle of life it has little new to say. Think of eight decades of EastEnders reduced to a 90-minute episode!

Performances of The Big Meal continue at the festival until April 19.

David Green

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