Harold Pinter Theatre, London – until 26 January 2019
Pinter Five sees Patrick Marber, someone who could call Harold Pinter a friend and colleague, take the directorial wheel as he presents a triple-bill of The Room, Victoria Station and Family Voices, delving further into the wealth of short plays left behind by the playwright.
The first half is taken up by Pinter’s first play, 1957’s The Room, a prototype for so much of what was to come as he settled into his distinctive voice. The air of menacing strangeness looming over seemingly everyday situations, visitors who disrupt and disturb, relationships that can never be quite pinned down…
Here, it is Jane Horrocks’ Rose and Rupert Graves’ Bert who are under the spotlight, her chattering away nine to the dozen as she prepares a meal for her silent husband, a real sense of unease percolating through the scene as Horrocks brings a querulous energy that is always on edge around Graves’ brooding van driver.
And as a succession of visitors come to the door and flood into the chilly bedsit, the relative stability is questioned and then shattered, confusion and complication allowed to run over all we thought we knew, and precious few answers given. There’s much to recognise that is developed further in future plays but there’s still a pleasing meatiness to the denseness here.
1982’s Victoria Station occupies much more overtly comedic ground as a minicab controller tries to pin down errant driver ‘274’ and get him to take a fare and played in boxed darkness, it certainly works in varying the tone of the programme well. Colin McFarlane is very funny as his patience is stretched ever thinner and then as things take a twist, making us believe the terror.
And last up is 1980’s Family Voices, an elegiac piece originally for radio which folds together three monologues into a despairing tale of familial isolation. A son writes home to his mother about his new living situation in the city which is proving challenging. The mother, not receiving these missives, writes to a son she believes has abandoned her. A father then tries to reach out from beyond.
Horrocks and Luke Thallon’s work here is just beautiful, interconnected but never connecting, something deeply affecting rising out of the increased anguish. Pinter’s depiction of urban life might necessarily seem a little dated but Thallon makes us believe the depths of his disquietude and Horrocks is spellbinding as the wife and mother who isn’t so sure she can still call herself either. For me, the highlight of Pinter at the Pinter so far.
Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Marc Brenner
Pinter Five is booking in rep with Pinter Six until 26th January
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