The Feast of Snails was an obscure Nordic play from an Icelandic novelist, Olaf Olafsson perfomed at the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue in 2002.
In Snails we meet a solitary businessman dining alone. He is the only Icelandic member of a group of gourmets who style themselves Les Amis de l'Eté. As they dine on one of their famously themed meals in Paris, Karl Johnson (David Warner) will join them, synchronising the time of each course even though he is dining at his home in Iceland. The meal has been prepared by his housekeeper and cook, Katrin (Sorcha Cusack) and will be served by the buxom and very pretty maid, Rosa (Siwan Morris).
David Paulson (Philip), a stranger arrives with a mission he is reluctant to disclose until the right moment, but there is never a right moment for this kind of message. Paulson's only connection to the diners seems to be that he was once at school with Karl's son. Much of the play is monologue from Johnson as he reveals himself to be rich, smug, widowed, racist, and successful both in business and with women. At one point he gives David the task of going into a neighbour's empty house and planting a framed photograph of Johnson on the bedside table of the neighbour's wife. Why? A power game presumably to confuse the neighbour with whom he is squabbling.
Philip's solid, dependable visitor will eventually deliver his unpalatable message but not until he has been persuaded to sample the various snail courses and has completed his commando mission in the neighbour's house.
Ashley Martin Davies' set had the walls dripping famous art, two Rothkos, seven Monet lithographs, a Picasso. The dining room furniture is English and seventeenth century, the carpet a valuable Persian antique -- all part of Karl Johnson's make up is a "nouveaux riches" pride in his expensive possessions. Large glass doors which are bathed in heavy rain for most of the latter half of the play, a reminder of the persistent Icelandic weather.
The discussion about food, affords an opportunity to get inside the mind of a gourmet, someone in this case whose is obsessed with food. Each nationality of snail course has a theme which Johnson expounds, attributing a racial stereotype so that the German snails are forever "invading other people's territory", that the Icelandic snails are lazy and the Americans snails are fat, happy, outgoing and they want everyone to like them.
The Feast of Snails Written by Olaf Olafsson Directed by Ron Daniels Starring: David Warner With: Philip Glenister, Sorcha Cusack and Siwan Morris Design: Ashley Martin-Davis Lighting Design: Peter Mumford Sound design: John Leonard for Aura Running time: One hour forty minutes with no interval