The Dinner Party
Sean touching his son’s face onscreen, Cheryl after her husband battered her – moving moments. But Ken telling dinner guests Audrey and Lewis, “Tracey always says how much she misses her mother’s home cooking, her stuffed marrow in particular.” Like Audrey, I knew: “yum yum.” This is going to be good!
What followed Ken’s statement was a tiny three-act play. Set into Tuesday and Wednesday’s episodes, it starred Ken and Deirdre, Audrey and Lewis.
The Barlow dining room, after their (and our) appetites had been whetted in the Rovers. Not really Audrey’s though. She seems to not be a fan of stuffed marrow. (I don’t know why the writers picked on the poor squash, any type of which is delicious when stuffed and baked. I guess it just sounds funny – yum yum, marrow!!)
Audrey seems on edge with Deirdre. And something’s been whetted for Deirdre; she’s sparkling with rapier-like wit and flirtatious asides to Lewis. Audrey glowers at both her stuffed marrow and Deirdre. Ken figures a discussion about the last election will loosen things up around the old dinner table. Lewis, with his usual insouciance, simply says, “I didn’t vote.” Well, Ken comes up out of his chair – “not vote!!??” Things are not improved when Ken gives Lewis his clincher argument – “how can we complain about how the country’s run?” and Lewis simply smiles his lovely gigolo smile and says “But I don’t.” And there you have it, that topic of conversation done.
From there on, although it doesn’t seem possible, it goes from bad to worse. Deirdre provides conversational distraction by asking if Audrey wants ketchup, then asking if the marrow isn’t too runny. Audrey says “I must get the recipe”. Deirdre is dying to bring Lewis’ line of work into conversation, so says that Ken used to be a male escort. They all nearly choke on their teeth, or marrow. Ken accuses Deirdre of being a tad tiddly and suggests she just drink straight from the bottle, saying “you’re turning into your mother”.
Mercifully, the meal and after-dinner chat finally end. The third act of this little comedy of manners occurs outside as Deirdre is having a well-earned cigarette. Lewis, the man for all women, apparently also indulges from time to time. He lights that cigarette like a true smoker. Deirdre says she’s been naughty teasing about escort work, Lewis says “a very naughty girl.” Deirdre, with a smoldering look, says, “if I had to pay for your services or his, I know who I’d choose.” Lewis smolders right back.
Audrey comes outside right then and is horrified to see him sucking back on the smoke. She coughs, flaps her arms to keep the smoke away, “oh, put that out, oh oh” etc etc. Deirdre offers to copy the marrow recipe right then, Audrey looks like a treed animal. She makes her escape into the house. With a wonderful come-hither look over his shoulder to Deirdre, Lewis follows her in. Deirdre looks very pleased with herself, it’s been a good night’s work. Presumably Ken is inside, wondering if he ought to raise the ceilings so that a library ladder in his new study is justified.