Van Badham is wicked. She loves to subvert expectations, topple paradigms and play with genres.
An Anarchist at Dinner is a ten-minute play where she does all of these to hilarious effect. Four pretentious yuppies have gathered for dinner at a Sydney harbourside apartment, awaiting the arrival of the fifth guest, Vanessa. Each of them tells us exactly who they are and how they fit into the story within moments of appearing on stage. So we know from the first lines that Rodney is a “successful marketing consultant” and that Stewart is a “secretly artistic film editor who has just had a uniquely marketable idea”.
Badham plays with the notion of the larrikin Aussie male, throwing it in our faces and showing just what a wank it can be. At one point in the play, Rodney reveals that he has “amusingly spiked” Vanessa’s beer with a date-rape drug and his wife’s response is “Oh, Rodney, you lovable larrikin”.
The humour bites and the characters are all deliberately shallow and vapid. There’s no attempt to make any of them anything but caricatures set up for a massive fall. So we can laugh at lines like “lesbianism is something only middle class women do when they’re bored”.
The suspense in the piece comes from the anticipation of Vanessa’s arrival. We know that she has “radical political beliefs” and that the other characters all expect her to disapprove of their “highly materialistic lifestyle”, hence their desire to bring her down via a “humiliating comeuppance”, probably involving one of them having sex with her to humiliate her.
STEWART: Can someone tell me why we talk about sex and say the word “dick” all the time?
ANGIE: Because we’re witty and sophisticated and urbane.
The pay off is that when Vanessa does arrive in the play’s last minute, she comes bearing a semi-automatic weapon and proceeds to mow down all the other characters.
Her final line is addressed to the audience.
VANESSA: Sorry – sorry, about this, everyone. I just – I just … really fucking hate this kind of play.
Ba-boom! Take that every writer who writes dialogue heavy plays where rich characters talk endlessly about their million dollar views and sex lives.
Unpublished but available through the Australian Script Centre
Cast: 3F, 2M