Brian March

Brian March

Fall from grace

Western Edge Theatre play follows character’s journey from the top to the bottom of the social hierarchy – and back again

It’s a stunning fall from grace to go from eating caramelized baby leeks to scraping them off plates in the bowels of the restaurant.

But that’s just what happened to Ryan Swanson’s character Emmett, the newcomer to a group of dishwashers who work in a swanky restaurant in Morris Panych’s play, staged by Western Edge Theatre.

“The restaurant works as a microcosm of society,” Swanson said, during a break in rehearsals. “It’s a large fall on the rungs of the social ladder.”

The Dishwashers follows Emmett and his interaction with his co-workers Dressler, the crew boss, and Moss, played by Barrie Baker, who’s been a dishwasher forever and doesn’t realize that Emmett is his replacement.

Director Brian March, who also plays Dressler, said the play mainly focuses on Emmett and his fall and ultimate redemption.

It also highlights so-called menial work and how people take pride in whatever they do.

“There’s a lot of talk about pride in this play,” March said.

As Emmett learns the job, he sees that his co-workers have ambitions and goals, too, but they might differ from his own. He leads the workers to establish their rights with the restaurant owner.

“There’s elements of class warfare in there,” Swanson said.

Swanson, who lives in Vancouver, is commuting between the two cities as actor in The Dishwashers and director in a production on the Lower Mainland.

Swanson attended Vancouver Island University and finished his schooling at Simon Fraser University.

Growing up in Nanaimo, he was heavily involved in not only theatre – performing with Nanaimo Theatre Group, on Gabriola with Antony Holland and at John Barsby high school – but also athletics.

“The same with athletics there’s always a source of performance,” Swanson said. “I always tended towards the arts.”

The Dishwashers opens this weekend in the basement lounge at Acme Food Co. Staging a play about a restaurant in a restaurant adds an element of realism to the show, said March.

The smells from the kitchen upstairs and the background noise all become part of the show.

“It makes the experience that much more intimate,” he said. “I, personally, like this kind of space.”

The venue is smaller, allowing only 40 seats per performance and audiences are within about five metres of the actors.

“I’m pretty well versed in site-specific theatre,” Swanson said. “It’s almost akin to working film and television – every movement and glance is pronounced.”

The realism benefits the actors as well as the audience.

“It almost helps the actors by putting them in the place they’re supposed to be,” he said.

The Dishwashers runs at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday (Oct. 28-29) and Nov. 4-5, and 2 p.m. on Nov. 6 at Acme Food Co. Tickets $20; $17/seniors; $10/students. Please call 250-668-0991 or visit

Ticket holders receive 15-per cent discount at Acme before and after the show, with partial proceeds to Western Edge.