Stage Review – The Dishwashers

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Not many of us escape being slave to routine, and being undermined sometimes, even victimised, in the workplace. And if you ever drive through a sleepless city, at a soulless hour, you might notice the street sweepers and the office cleaners as they start their working day. Yes, Morris Panych’s play is about the invisibility that many experience of being employed in, what is deemed to be, menial type jobs for the unskilled. In this black comedy Panych presents us with three pot washers who reveal much of the sorrows of the world while working in their scullery hidey hole.

This is an intimate and insightful play from a working class perspective, directed by Nikolai Foster, and will benefit from the audience drawing attraction of having David Essex starring. It is currently at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre ahead of a major UK tour.

The three main characters are Dressler (Essex), old Moss (Andrew Jarvis) and Emmett (Rik Makarem). The long time serving Dressler and Moss are showing new boy Emmett the ropes. Emmett is despairing in what he regards to be a reversal of fortune of having to wash dishes for a living. He makes waves during his employment, which does not sit well with the domineering Dressler. In the meantime Moss is suffering failing health and is having hallucinations but carries on fulfilling his duties. For the best part you will find Dressler complacent, Emmett aggrieved, and poor Moss – damned.

The set is a downstairs utility environment that helps with the charting of a few months these dishwashers share their time together. It has running water and a commercial water sprayer to boot! We also like the simple, yet effective curtain trick which opens and closes scenes.

The main actors appearing are required to deliver lengthy lines, with some complexity at times and they are just great in doing so. Performances are animated and refined. They handle the light and shade of the piece with expertise. There is a shared empathy between characters and their moods are often melancholy. These fellows show a degree of self importance, regretful behaviour and there is some bullying going on, but despite all the nasty stuff the humour is not lost. These performers are great advocators of all that is required to deliver. And, Jared Garfield, in his debut at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, performs as Burroughs at the play’s end.

So if you are thinking about seeing this play, expect to come away debating the bigger picture. You might consider the exploitation of workers and why doors close on the old in our society, or, you might wonder why it is some people empire build in their small corner. You might contemplate what brings satisfaction for some, and why that same thing might mean dissatisfaction for another.

When a body of work stays with you for a while, then it is a winner in my view. Recommended!


Photography by MANUEL HARLAN

Note: Reviewer, Debra Hall, attended the press night showing of The Dishwashers at Birmingham Repertory Theatre on Tuesday 04 February in an official capacity on behalf of Remotegoat Stage. Review is also published here


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