Wine, women and song: Dinner parties and midnight feasts. / 9 September 2014
On 2nd September 2014 I watched the YouTube live streamed performance of Katherine Araniello’s The Dinner Party on my tablet. I thoroughly enjoyed it for all the reasons Sophie Partridge gives in her review.
Originally I thought the work was inspired by The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago. But no.
Its inspiration was the 1920s German comedy, Dinner for One, where the butler stands in (and drinks) for all the distinguished yet absent/non-existent guests. Drunkenness and mayhem ensue.
Nevertheless, I do see connections between Katherine’s Dinner Party and Judy Chicago’s. The former has an all female cast and all the guests are female. While Chicago's dinner party explicitly celebrates female power and achievement, Araniello’s simply doesn’t feel the need to include men.
For me, the all women aspect of Araniello’s Dinner Party evokes strong resonance with boarding school. It was co-ed, but my best memories of Chailey are the goings on in the dorm, and the stuff the girls got up to: crowding into the loo at break times; messing about in domestic science class, table tennis, midnight feasts… laughing.
Laughing till someone wet their knickers. One of us always did; that was the rule. Our rule.
Another reason it chimed was the resigned acceptance of the wrongness and utter silliness of the situation, knowing it's crazy and that this includes the staff who are especially mad and stupid.
Araniello’s guests were pathetic. She made them cute and funny, while in real life these people can seriously ruin your day, if not your life. They will not go away. Even if they did, they would be replaced by others just as bad. Or worse.
The bizarreness of The Dinner Party, the slowed-down pace, also reminded me of my own performances as a wayward and clock-hating teenager at Chailey Heritage, leaping around the dorm after lights out, holding a torch above my head for a spotlight. And entertaining a friend between breakfast and by-your-bed inspection (which I invariably failed) with made-up songs and whirling dances around the marble pillars.
I love the free-wheeling anarchy of Katherine's art, but it also troubles me. I worry that the thoughtfulness and seriousness might be lost on people who are less 'in the know'. There's no escaping the fact that disability is a world (or two) apart.
Look back through my blog postings for other references to Chailey, eg 20th August 2012.