WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE?: Harold Pinter Theatre RUN TIME: 120 minutes (including interval)
WHEN?: 1/2/19, press night 6/2/19, booking to 23/2/19
Danny Dyer might be familiar to you as father of Love Island‘s Dani, his Henry VIII connection, from EastEnders or because of a memorable ‘trotters up’ Brexit quote but you might not know he was twice directed by Harold Pinter, in 2000 and 2002.
- Read on for reasons including why this is the most successful so far of the Pinter at the Pinter series
This is the 7th in the Pinter at the Pinter series of his lesser known works by the Jamie Lloyd Company at the Harold Pinter Theatre and is the most satisfying so far because the marriage of thrilling writing and superlative casting is so united.
This double bill begins with Pinter’s first radio play, 1959’s A Slight Ache, which begins with music reminiscent of Inside No 9 and plays out in similar, eery fashion. We meet middle class husband and wife Flora and Edward who appear to lead an idyllic life which is threatened when a mysterious, balaclava-clad match seller appears ominously outside their garden gate.
John Heffernan reminds of a young Rory Kinnear and Gemma Whelan is so good in a role which could be an audition for the older Queen Elizabeth in the next Netflix series of The Crown that we think she’s probably 1 of the UK’s most underrated actresses.
We’ve seen all of the Pinter at the Pinter shows so far and this best captures some of the main themes so present in his work including unseen threat.
1957’s The Dumb Waiter was the only Pinter play in this collection staged so far that we’d seen previously (a school production many years ago) and it’s again a two-hander with, arguably, this anthology’s biggest stars so far (see above) appearing.
Freeman and Dyer play co-workers in a single room preparing for a job we’re not quite clear about who are interrupted by surprise comic arrivals in the titular dumb waiter, a small lift for carrying things, especially food and crockery, between the floors of a building.
It’s the perfect device for Pinter to toy with familiar themes of power and the audience never quite having full grasp of the story, because we can see that the characters are hearing the voice of an unseen character but we cannot hear what they are saying.
Freeman and Dyer are cast to type and spark brilliantly off each other as a mismatched comic duo and the audience at this preview were in fits of laughter throughout despite the air of unease that pervades the writing.
This is a great pay-off for those who have persisted with Pinter at the Pinter thus far and beautifully tees up the finale: Betrayal starring Tom Hiddleston and monstagigz favourite Zawe Ashton.