Harold Pinter Theatre, London – until 8 December 2018
Stagey confession: I have never seen a Harold Pinter play. Ever. I don’t know why particularly. I don’t think it’s a conscious decision. It’s just never happened. Come to think of it, I don’t actually know that much about his writing style even, beyond the eponymous pause.
Jamie Lloyd’s Pinter at the Pinter series, reviving lesser-known short plays, monologues and comedy sketches, is probably quite an odd place to start my Pinter education but here we are. Specifically, I’m starting at Pinter Three comprising 11 assorted pieces: short plays Landscape, Night and A Kind of Alaska; sketches Apart From That, That’s All, That’s Your Trouble and Trouble in the Works; and monologues Girls, God’s District, Monologue and Special Offer. Eclectic.
I have to say, as a concept I find this Pinter Pick N Mix kind of weird – there’s no particular single thematic thread tying everything together, no real common motifs – but it does work, largely because it’s all done so bloody well. And I have to say it’s blown most of my Pinter preconceptions away: Pinter Three and its various parts are not what I thought Pinter was at all. It’s so much more humane, so much funnier and so much more concerned with people and their relationships than I expected. It’s an extremely pleasant surprise, to be honest.
Lloyd’s direction (he is in the chair for everything in Three) is assured and confident, and the piece as a whole is arranged well. The sketches and monologues he’s included here are fairly slight, even though they’re all really well done and funny/touching as required, so to bookend them as he has – we open with Landscape and close with A Kind of Alaska, both of which are weighty in their own right – with the bigger dramatic bits is clever. It keeps things moving nicely. Technically, the whole thing is cleverly put together too, with Soutra Gilmour’s revolving, adaptable, multipurpose set allowing for seamless transitions between bits.
The cast assembled to bring this all to life is also a bit of a dream, as it is throughout the Pinter at the Pinter season it must be said: Keith Allen, Tom Edden, Lee Evans, Tamsin Greig and Meera Syal. Greig and Syal are particular highlights, the latter getting to show off a range from mischievous through to grieving and the former doing all of the emotional heavy lifting extraordinarily well. Keith Allen continues to be Keith Allen, delivering the Keith Allen-y parts with aplomb. Evans and Edden bring the majority of the lolz but are also given chances to show off their acting chops which they dutifully exploit. It’s all a bit squad goals, to be honest. I want to hang out with these people.
Now I’m not going to sit here and separately review every single piece because you’ve got better things to do and so have I. But there are some clear highlights. A Kind of Alaska is worth the price of a ticket alone, Greig commanding the stage utterly as a patient waking from a coma to try and reconcile with her current life and family (sister Syal and doctor/brother in law Allen). It’s gorgeously written and beautifully performed. Landscape too, teaming Allen and Greig up again as a husband and wife at odds. Of the sketches and monologues, I loved Girls, Tom Edden showing off his verbal gymnastics, and Monologue, Lee Evans reminding us all that he can legit act as well as pull funny faces. Trouble in the Works is great fun too, Edden and Evans relishing being funny men saying funny words. It’s all good though; a bit random but good.
Overall, I really rated Pinter Three. Whether you know your Pinter or not, I’d wager there’s something new for you here. Funny, touching, and staged and performed with real class. Solidly good stuff.
Pinter Three is part of The Jamie Lloyd Company’s Pinter at the Pinter season, and plays at the Harold Pinter Theatre (obvs) until December 8th.
My ticket for this was generously provided by the production. I sat in F16 in the stalls which would normally cost £99.50. Which is obviously ridiculous. (I am 100% certain I was allocated this seat by accident by the way. Check out the epic downgrade I got for Pinter Four later the same day if you don’t believe me.)