Harold Pinter Theatre, London – until 8 December 2018
Guest reviewer: Maeve Campbell
Pinter Four continues Jamie Lloyd’s Pinter at the Pinter season with the Lyndsey Turner-directed Moonlight starring Robert Glenister as a dying patriarch who bemoans his family’s absence at his deathbed to his long-suffering wife (c).
The second half play Night School, directed by Ed Stambollouian, is a totally different beast from a different Pinter era. Al Weaver plays a disgruntled ex-fraudster who discovers, on his release from prison, that his aunts have let out his bedroom to a mysterious and glamorous young school teacher (Jessica Barden).
The two plays are starkly different. The later publication Moonlight, first performed in 1993, stands out as the notably weaker text. It is a flabby story, with overly pretentiously philosophising dialogue that many actors relish, but turns audiences off. Despite the play’s brevity, it could have done with a cut and Turner’s direction disappoints in making clear any sense of the text’s fractured story.
Some clunky and uninspired blocking further confuses the narrative, as familiar scenes from the past cross into the dying Andy’s bedroom. Brennan and Glenister work hard as the central couple, imbued with a palpable toxic resentment for each other, but they are let down by the uncontained ephemera around them.
Night School is more dynamically conceived by Stambollouian, but it is a much better play. From the first beats of the piece, it is clear that the actors are having fun with this material, the strange metaphors and images and the pithy, punchy jibes that litter the play-script.
Stambollouian plays imaginatively with staging, with a well-employed revolve proving particularly effective. The play isn’t perfect and doesn’t say much about the contemporary stage of things, written in 1979 the content now feels dated.
However, it is cleanly directed and performed with great gusto; Brid Brennan and Janie Dee stand out as the bickering maiden aunts, bouncing off each other expertly. Their performances are just a couple of examples of why one might be drawn to these plays and they are filled with weird, troubled and disconnected figures who are clearly great fun to play.
Pinter Four runs through 8 December.
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