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Dinner With Saddam

Published 23 September 2015

What’s it all about?

Imagine a sitcom set during the Iraq war; think My Iraqi Family or Men Behaving Baghdadly. There’s an incompetent father, sarcastic mother, strong-willed daughter, unsuitable boyfriend. Oh, and an unexpected dinner guest, Saddam Hussein. Cue much panic, farce and faecal fun.

Who’s in it?

Imagine the most unlikely sitcom star… That’s right, Steven Berkoff is in the show playing the Iraqi dictator with a dryness that would impress the Sahara. He is as devoid of humour as Iraq was of WMDs, bringing instead the expected odiousness, entitlement and bullying to the role.

Around Berkoff’s frighteningly straight man orbits a cast who tip the laughter balance in the right direction for a comedy.

TV comedy star and Spamalot veteran Sanjeev Bhaskar finds pitch perfect levels of panic and franticness as the family’s father, bouncing off the cutting put-downs fired at him by Shobu Kapoor as his wife.

But the show is very nearly stolen by Nathan Amzi as a spineless bully fawning at the feet of his hero while struggling with a distinctly unhelpful stomach condition.

What should I look out for?

The gloriously signposted sitcom gags. Rat poison kept in a jar labelled mixed spice, an unpleasant substance thrown hastily in a bag in the fridge; we know where these are leading, but the anticipation of the pay-off is delicious.

Amzi’s show-stopping fight with an uncontrollable bodily function. It is an explosion unlike any you would expect from a comedy set amidst a war. If you have a soft spot for schoolboy humour – I do – it will be one of the funniest moments you’ll see on stage this year.

The nods – deliberate or otherwise – to TV comedies, from The Chuckle Brothers to ‘Allo ‘Allo.

In a nutshell?

Frantic farce, sitcom silliness and an evil dictator; the perfect ingredients for a laughter-filled dinner.

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Will I like it?

If you need a laugh at the end of the day, love classic comedy set-ups and pay-offs, and aren’t averse to the odd poo gag or two, this will be right up your war-torn street. While there’s the odd political point and gender issue waiting to hit you bluntly round the head like an over enthusiastic government enforcer, Dinner With Saddam is silly fun of the most farcical order. Enjoy it, or we’ll send Steven Berkoff round to have dinner with you!

Dinner With Saddam plays at the Menier Chocolate Factory until 14 November. You can book tickets through the theatre’s website.

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