The culmination of Jamie Lloyd’s Pinter at the Pinter season, which has been a triumph, is two short plays from very early in Harold Pinter’s career both of which he directs. Not has only the production of all Pinter’s short plays proved that there is a large, enthusiastic audience for apparently difficult and oblique drama; it has also made the case that Pinter’s short drama, comparatively overlooked, should be judged on a level with his full-length plays. They include some of his best writing.
Pinter at the Pinter reaches its climax with Pinter Seven featuring an enigmatic and occasionally baffling radio play, A Slight Ache, and a real highlight in an already remarkable season, The Dumb Waiter.https://mytheatremates.entstix.com/tickets/dumb-waiter-slight-ache
What a difference a few months can make; when the Jamie Lloyd Company first announced its Pinter at the Pinter season finale show back in May (before Betrayal was added to the programme), the news that Danny Dyer would star alongside Martin Freeman raised a few eyebrows.
Pinter Six of the Pinter at the Pinter season is the first that I can say I quite enjoyed but it didn’t stop a nagging question I’ve had for a while: Was Pinter a misogynist? I’m not alone as it was the first question in the post-show Q&A with director Jamie Lloyd and cast members Celia Imrie, Ron Cook and Abraham Popoola.
Two of the country’s most exciting young stars, Zawe Ashton and Charlie Cox, will Tom Hiddleston in The Jamie Lloyd Company production of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal at the Harold Pinter Theatre from 5 March 2019 until 1 June (press night is 13 March) for a strictly limited season ending on 1 June, directed by Jamie Lloyd. The production forms the culmination of the historic Pinter at the Pinter season.
There are no balloons or party poppers but a good time is guaranteed with Party Time and Celebration, a standout Pinter Six from the consistently strong Pinter at the Pinter season in London’s West End.
One of the benefits in producing such a wide-ranging festival as Pinter at the Pinter has been the flexibility in its programming, allowing for thematic evenings to emerge as opposed to a straight chronological trip through the canon. So here, Jamie Lloyd is able to bring together two plays set at gatherings, both conveniently cast for nine people.
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 fourth instalment in Jamie Lloyd’s consistently enjoyable season of Harold Pinter’s short plays contrasts plays from either end of the writer’s career.
Pinter Four serves up something of a difficult double bill at the Harold Pinter Theatre, but Bríd Brennan and Janie Dee are there to help us through the dark times.
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 (Brid Brennan).
Pinter Three features 11 plays, allowing director Jamie Lloyd to vary tone, pace and style with shorter, more amusing sketches bookended by two more heavyweight works; Landscape and A Kind of Alaska.
The Jamie Lloyd Company has announced that Golden Globe, Olivier and Evening Standard Award winner Tom Hiddleston will play Robert in Jamie Lloyd’s new production at the Harold Pinter Theatre from 5 March 2019 (press night is 13 March) for a strictly limited season ending on 1 June.
The Pinter at the Pinter season continues with parts Three and Four which showcase both Pinter’s comic brilliance and his ability to move an audience.
Beginning with a burst of confetti and ending in a sombre drop of petals, Pinter One is the far darker side of Pinter at the Pinter
“They don’t like you either, my darling”
I found myself enjoying Pinter Two much more than expected and so momentarily forgetting that I’d sworn off the whole thing, I rashly decided to book in for Pinter One, which proves to be an entirely different kind of affair. Not just thematically – it’s an overtly political collection of works and thus considerably darker – but structurally, gathering together no less than nine short pieces, eight of which run together to make the first half.
They’re Press Conference / Precisely / The New World Order / Mountain Language / American Football / The Pres and an Officer / Death / and One for the Road (all directed by Jamie Lloyd) with Ashes to Ashes (directed by the Lia Williams) following after the interval. And so ultimately it feels a bit more like a showcase of Pinter which brings with it some challenges, alongside the interest value in unearthing some lesser-seen works, including a world premiere.
That premiere – The Pres And An Officer – manages the not-unimpressive feat of fully justifying its Trump-a-like as Pinter’s prescience in nailing the vicissitudes of a numbnuts US president is uncanny. Played by a roll-call of guest stars (I saw Jon Culshaw), its a welcome burst of comedy in an otherwise dark affair and you have to laugh, because otherwise you’d cry.
Elsewhere Paapa Essiedu and Sir Antony Sher are grippingly intense in the exquisite torture of One For The Road, and Kate O’Flynn and Maggie Steed are pointedly excellent as a pair of bull-shitting men. And what you get here that you don’t in Pinter 2 is a real sense of how imaginatively flexible Soutra Gilmour’s revolving cube design is as it reconfigures at every available opportunity.
Post-interval, O’Flynn and Essiedu tackle 1996’s Ashes to Ashes, a more typically cryptic work where a couple are talking and yet their meaning is slippery and vague and disturbing and unmissable. Both actors deliver their ‘conversation’ with the utmost conviction, its impossible to drag your eyes from them even as we get darker and more violent and stranger. It’s hard work, as is the whole thing, but worth it for its sheer quality.
Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Marc Brenner
Pinter One is booking in rep with Pinter Two – The Lover/The Collection at the Harold Pinter Theatre until 20th October
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Mark Shenton views the week of news, openings & upcoming awards… in the West End, Broadway & beyond.
Impeccably acted and insightfully staged, Pinter Two a most effective double bill and a promising start to a season I may yet fall for more completely.
Jamie Lloyd is embarking on an epic project: to stage every single one of the influential playwright Harold Pinter’s short plays over a six month period at the theatre which bears his name. Pinter at the Pinter. Pretty neat huh?
It seems anyone who is anyone has signed up for Jamie Lloyd’s ambitious season of Harold Pinter plays at the appropriately named Harold Pinter Theatre in the West End.
The stony word is PINTER, and this launches a short season marking his death ten years ago by assembling, in seven sets, all his short playlets, sketches and poems, with starry casts including (in this first set) Paapa Essiedu, Maggie Steed and Antony Sher.