Harold Pinter Theatre, London – until 8 December 2018
Like ripping off a dramatic plaster, now that I’ve done one show’s worth of Harold Pinter it’s time to plunge headfirst into another. Pinter Three down, Pinter Four to go.
This time, it’s a much more straightforward doubleheader: two one-act plays, Moonlight and Night School. The cast is bigger, there are two very different productions helmed by two very different directors and all is still very much on track in my newfound appreciation of your man Harold.
Moonlight is up first, directed by Lyndsey Turner. Telling a story of death, regret and unconnectedness, this is much more what I thought Pinter was. The text is dense, complex and funny with flashes of anger. The structure is, for me, a bit confusing: the story is split between straightforward narrative sequences (man on deathbed) and some more esoteric sequences of his children, struggling to face up to his mortality, talking about him in code. Or talking about unrelated people not in code? I’m not sure and I sort of gave up trying to figure it out because, regardless, the narrative bits are so strong. And just like really funny.
Turner’s direction is great; feisty but a light touch. She measures up the two halves of the play really well and delivers something balanced and lively with plenty of space to breathe. Soutra Gilmour’s design is fantastic again. A much more enclosed setting – happening as all of the action across both bits of the story does in the same bedroom – but still really evocative. This one is particularly well lit by Jon Clarke too. Nothing bright or flashy, quite the opposite, but all the more effective for it.
Once again, we’re blessed with a top-drawer cast led by one of my absolute faves, Robert Glenister. He is superb in the central role, on stage all the time, and just endlessly watchable. He has great support from Brid Brennan as his long-suffering wife. They have great chemistry whilst providing great contrast. I wish the whole play was them, to be honest. That said, there are scene-stealing cameos from Peter Polycarpou and Janie Dee to play with as well. The latter in particular is an utter joy.
If Moonlight is what I thought I was signing up for with a day of Pinter, Night School is, like all of Pinter Three, really rather not. This is much more broadly comedic, and structurally much more straightforward, even if the themes of secrets and identity are perhaps much closer to what I was expecting.
Directed with musical flair and rhythm (figurative and literal, I loved the addition of a live drummer to punctuate the action) by Ed Stambollouian, Night School tells the story of a young guy returning home from prison to find his aunts have let his room to a school teacher with a secret. The production is pacy and spiky and quick. The design is, again, fantastic and I laughed a lot, both with and at characters.
The performances here are pure class. Janie Dee and Brid Brennan steal things once again as the aunts, a winning combination of doddery and sly. I missed them a lot when they weren’t on stage – which thankfully was not often. Al Weaver takes the young lead and runs with it, really seizing the opportunity to show what he can do. He’s great fun and incredibly sympathetic as the probably less hapless than everyone thinks wannabe forger. Robert Glenister pops in too, just to remind everyone that he’s excellent in another supremely charismatic turn. This piece feels much more like a team sport than Moonlight, and the team is David Beckham era Man United.
Pinter Four is another strong entry in the Pinter at the Pinter season and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Top drawer cast, top drawer production and yet more surprises for this non-Pinter expert. Highly worth your time.
Pinter Four is part of The Jamie Lloyd Company’s Pinter at the Pinter season at the Harold Pinter theatre (AND I AM NOW SICK OF TYPING THE WORD PINTER) and plays until 8th December.
My tickets for this one were once again kindly provided by the production and I sat in the much more appropriate to my station D6 in the Dress Circle. This seat has a properly restricted view (it’s behind a pillar – told you I got the fancy stalls seat by accident) but it’s easy, if not comfortable, enough to lean out into the aisle to make it not have. It would normally cost £15 and for that amount, for a short show with an interval, is reasonable value.