THEATRE REVIEW: The Caretaker starring Timothy Spall, Daniel Mays & George MacKay

WORTH A LOOK?: *****

WHERE: Old Vic

WHEN: 2/4, runs to 14/5

It’s 19 years since star Timothy Spall last acted on stage and just over one since his tremendous grumbling titular turn in Mike Leigh’s biopic Mr Turner inexplicably failed to earn him a best actor Oscar nomination.

  • Read on for reasons why this is director Matthew Warchus’ first five-star Old Vic triumph

Spall plays tramp Davies taken in by Daniel Mays’ disturbed handyman Aston into his brother Mick’s (Pride‘s George MacKay) jumbled flat. It’s a box set that remains in place throughout the three-hour long production boasting two intervals.

The Caretaker is Harold Pinter’s sixth play and is a psychological study of three men published 57 years ago. It’s at its most effective when Mays explains his sectioning, treatment and reason for his difficulties walking.

Regurgitating the plot does little to explain Pinter’s genius in making the ordinary extraordinary. Happily his work is in safe hands with this outstanding cast. Spall does wonders with Davies to actually make us care about the fate of someone who is an infuriating, lying, racist prone to exaggeration.

In a role completely different to his turn in Pride, MacKay is convincingly terrifying as Mick, while Mays (again a character as far away as possible from his non-league football manager in last year’s The Red Lion at the National) tugs at the heartstrings as he takes pity on Davies.

Tonight was only the fifth preview of this production which has its press night on Wednesday. It ends in such a way as to make standing ovations uncomfortable but we’d expect them to become the norm once all the reviews are in.

An outstanding marriage of five-star material and acting/direction. It’s the biggest hit of Matthew Warchus’ tenure as the Old Vic’s artistic director, all the sweeter because he was at its helm.

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy Old Vic. Tickets here.
  • Enjoyed this review? Follow its author on Twitter @NeilDurham

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