STILL SHOCKING, STILL SEXIST ! GUEST CRITIC LUKE JONES SMACKS HIS LIPS OVER A VINTAGE PINTER…
I get the itching feeling that if anyone else had written this play we’d call the police. But they didn’t – Harold Pinter wrote it – so we won’t. Like all the best thrillers it is absolutely outrageous. Prostitution, death, perversions of every aspect are indulged and laughed at and we’re all 100% complicit.
Teddy has been away for a number of years (in America , being a Professor in Philosophy of all things) but has returned to visit his family, new wife by his side. And what an awful place to bring a woman. His father hates women, his uncle has an aversion to them, both his brothers are boasting rapists and one is a pimp. The poor dead mum is a conversational vigil and punch bag – all very Freud.
For all its chilling flights of lunacy, Jamie Lloyd has compacted this troubling, tense, intriguing, sexist and furiously crackers play into something incredibly lean and precise. Everything is incredibly measured, making the flashes of anger even more terrifying. Soutra Gilmour’s brilliant set is a deep, abstract room which zooms backwards as if looking down the barrel of a gun. A single door gloomily stands at the end. Home sweet home.
Ron Cook as the furious father Max gives the kind of terrifying performance only someone under 5ft could. He’s planted in the middle of the empty living room, sitting in the only armchair, spitting about sluts, hatching disgusting plans and presiding over his perverse family. The dialogue between him and his brother Sam (Keith Allen) is where Pinter’s lines really get cooking. Both have that excellently distracted, hauntingly calm Pinter delivery, without sounding like actors doing Pinter. Keith Allen is camp as tits, and nails every gag.
Gemma Chan is thankfully one of the sturdiest performances on stage. Everything in the play is geared to make her the victim but with the few lines she’s given she chills the rowdy male atmosphere in a brilliantly icy fashion.Gary Kemp as her odd, odd husband (Teddy) and John MacMillan as his younger, simpler, brother (Joey) slice through the comedy and the darkness well. John Simm as the third of the boys (Lenny) has moments of sheer perfection, but occasionally slips into ‘I’m speaking Pinter lines’ mode.
Despite a distracting interval (they should just run it 1h45 straight through), Jamie Lloyd has pulled of yet another tightly wound and wildly chilling Pinter revival. The duller moments are quickly glided over and the awful sexual and jealous tension is fully indulged in. We all felt at risk.
Box Office 08448717615 to 13 Feb (alas, a day too early for a Valentine’s Day outing for the brave…)