Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The Dishwashers @ The REP, Tuesday 4th February 2014

Washing the’s a strange thing. On the one hand it’s a tiresome chore, you end up getting your sleeves wet, you can never quite remove get that scrambled egg that’s been spot welded to the saucepan and you always forget about a small pile of stuff after you’ve tipped the water out of the bowl. On the other hand, well, there’s something a little zen about it all. The whole thing’s such a mundane but strangely satisfying activity that you can kind of zone out a little and let your mind drift to higher things. This, sort of, is the thinking behind new play The Dishwashers.

Starring David Essex (who seems to be enjoying a much deserved ‘second wind’ recently), Andrew Jarvis and Rik Makarem the entire thing’s set in the bowels (literally at times) of a swanky London restaurant. As anyone who’s worked in such a place will know they’re often somewhat less salubrious than the dining area and the set perfectly captures the grime, grease and dinginess of it all. This subterranean pit is home to three characters, Dressler (Essex) – the self appointed leader of the pack, Moss (Jarvis) – a half mad creature who’s spent his entire live cleaning stuff, windows, cars and now dishes and Emmett (Makaram) – someone who used to dine at the restaurant before losing all of his money and being ‘reduced’ to scrubbing the very plates he used to eat off.

Remarkably from such an unlikely premise the writer (Morris Panych) and cast rather brilliantly tackle the meaning of you a production that’s as entertaining as it is thought provoking. Although apparently written before the ‘credit crunch’ it offers a timely reappraisal of what it is to live, work and exist in what is a pretty unpredictable time for a lot of people. Many of us have had to get used to shifting our expectations a little and there’s something inspirational about this piece, especially Dressler’s dignity and the pride he takes in a job that most would pass off as menial.

The interaction between the three characters is a treat. Makarem is perfect as the rich kid who’s fallen from grace, Essex nails it as the father figure with an edge and Jarvis puts on a truly Shakespearian performance as Moss. 

Anyone familiar with Orwell’s Down and Out In London and Paris will pick up on this book’s influences but there’s also a little of Galton and Simpson’s Steptoe and Son about the whole set up with Makaram’s determined to rise back up to the dining room whilst Essex does his best to keep him elbow deep in detergent. Like Galton and Simpson Panych blends pathos and comedy so there are plenty of chuckles along the way together with some remarkably insightful comments on the human condition. Cleverly written and skilfully delivered (there were one or two fluffed lines but, heck, this was one of the opening nights) even the breaks between scenes are well considered, with the ‘curtain’ both descending and closing from both sides, reducing the view of the stage to a narrow square before disappearing altogether. In one of my more pretentious moments I pondered that perhaps this reflected the shrinking of opportunities, ambition and time that lie at the heart of the play...but maybe it’s just the way the curtains close here? Anyway, drapery aside this is a production that really does ‘dish’ up pretty much everything you want from a great night out at the theatre.

The Dishwashers is on at The REP until February 15th – tickets available here – then it’s off on tour (hopefully it’ll make it to the West End and big or small screen too).

P.S All photos are courtesy of Manuel Harlan


  1. Really enjoyed this. Funny yet dark is how I described it. Yes, there were a few fluffed lines, skillfully recovered, who doesn't sometimes struggle for the right words in real life? I know I do. The music and the pause between acts, as well as the way the curtains closed (like the dot on the telly when you turned it off in the old days) added to the darkness of the characters position in life. Who was truly happy at the end? Go see it. Really, go see it.

  2. Thanks for your comment Coral, we agree it really is a must see!