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Joining the Dots Theatre: Babette's Feast - Review by Matthew Doherty

Babette’s Feast tells the story about a quiet Norwegian village, in which two sisters take up the responsibility of tending to the towns people after the passing of their father. Due to their sense of duty and kindness they take in a French immigrant (Babette) who begins to have a profound impact on everyone around her. Babette requests to host an extravagant dinner for the two sisters and the entire town, and in doing so brings everyone together in a way that has not been experienced in years.

Even if you are unfamiliar with the tale of Babette’s feast (which admittedly I wasn’t), The production finds creative and dynamic ways to keep you up to speed with what is going on. As well as keeping you invested with a cast of loveable and unique characters. I especially liked the way certain characters would jump in with narration, explaining who certain people were, or the backstory of what was happening in the scene. It was particularly impressive, as often it would bleed into another character dialogue, so that it never felt like we left the world of the story.

I want to commend the use of stage and lighting, which was incredible. Pieces of the set constantly moved and changed to transport us to where the story was taken place, and this was all done so smoothly. Two particular scenes that stood out were Martine’s nightmare, which was absolutely terrifying, and Babette’s feast itself, in which lighting was used to show how glorious the food that was being served was. The cast and crew deserve a lot of praise in pulling this off in such an effective manner.

This production had such a strong cast, who got to show their range at bringing various characters to life. Even characters we meet for small moments are so well preformed that we knew everything about them just from their small time on stage. It was also an impressive how quickly and smoothly the cast could change between character as the story progressed, and as an audience it was a joy to watch.

I loved Alison Chambers and Rowena McNicol as Martine and Philippa, as an audience we became so attach to their struggle in taking care of everyone around them. Both actors brought a lot of dignity and kindness to their roles. I also loved Dina Gillespie as Babette, who played the role with a strong, quiet, confidence. She was such a powerful presence on stage and made us all fall in love with Babette just as the towns people did. Although Babette came across as a strong but dutiful house guest, Gillespie added an element of sadness and grief in her performance which I found very captivating.

I also enjoyed Shameer Birges performance as Archille Papin, who gave the famous artist a lot of charisma and energy. He brought a lot of comedy to the character, but also showed a tender side with his interactions with Philippa. Two other strong performances were Matt Abotomey and Yves Stening, who brought to life the old and young version of Lowenhiem. I especially loved when both actors were on stage together with older version confronting the young. Stening was serious and reflective, whilst Abotomey was reckless and carefree. I loved the details both actors brought to their version of Lowenheim.

This was such an enjoyable production, told in such a captivating and unique way. Time honestly flew by, as I was so wrapped up in the story and the characters. Tackling themes such as guilt, loss, service and love in a way not usually explored, Babette’s will be sure to serve its audiences an unforgettable feast.

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