(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/12.)
In a slightly overlong preface, we see the boy-hero roaming through the family home as if filming a silent horror flick. But the trigger for his rage is the sight of his parents fondling each other before they host a dinner party. In his bilious imagination his father turns into the power‑mad Père Ubu, his mother becomes a knife-wielding seductress, and the guests morph into the authority figures whose fate is to be murdered or usurped. Donnellan's skill lies in never letting us forget the dinner-party framework – an ice bucket and peppermill become an orb and sceptre; a lampshade stands in for a crown. There are also some hilarious jump-cuts between fantasy and reality: no sooner have we seen the father filmically committing an act of unspeakable torture than his wife breezes into the dining room asking, "Anyone allergic to pine nuts?"