Paul T Davies reviews Pinter Five which is now playing at the Harold Pinter Theatre as part of the Pinter at the Pinter Season.
The Pinter at the Pinter season continues to offer up delights, and really does now feel like a once in a lifetime chance to see rarely performed Pinter short plays and sketches. If there is a theme to this triple bill that make up Pinter 5, it’s fragmented voices and lives intersecting, family connections made fragile by non-communication, whether it be face to face, over the air waves or in letters unsent and unread.
The Room is vintage Pinter from 1957. Rose Hudd anxiously serves breakfast to her husband, Bert, she reassures him that it will “keep out the cold”, but it’s clear that the cold is in the room. There are echoes of The Birthday Party resounding off the grubby walls, her social status is established that they aren’t in the basement, with its running walls, but the outside is a terrifying place, and then strangers knock on the door. Its post war, bomb damaged Britain, and who is the mysterious man in the basement who knows who Rose Hudd is?
Jane Horrocks, as Rose, drives the piece with an excellent performance of crackling anxiety, matched by Rupert Graves as an almost silent Bert. Nicholas Woodeson adds to the anxiety as the landlord Mr. Kidd, questioning the furniture in the room and knocking pipes about. His memories of his mother include thinking she was Jewess, bringing into the room notions of hostile forces taking over accommodation and forced eviction. Paranoia increases with the arrival of Mr. And Mrs. Sands, (Luke Thallon and Emma Naomi), who thinks the room is available to rent. At the beautiful climax of the play, the man from the basement enters, Riley, blind and able to clearly see and know who Rose is. Is he Death coming to call her home, with Colin McFarlane’s beautiful voice seducing Rose and the audience, were Mr. And Mrs Sands the sands of time running out? We hear a baby cry as they make contact, hinting at the circle of life closing, (excellent sound throughout from Ben and Max Ringham.) Bert returns and attacks Riley, saving his wife, but she is now blind, perhaps symbolically turning a blind eye to the violence that thrums around her. It’s an extraordinary piece, beautifully acted, that is worth the ticket price alone.
The season has done much to prove how funny Pinter is, and Victoria Station, (1982), is a hilarious two hander between a taxi firm controller and a bemused driver who doesn’t seem to know where he is, but knows he has fallen in love with the passenger asleep in the back of his car. Rupert Graves and Colin Mcfarlane play a blinder here, as the controller’s increasing frustration reveals the driver’s state of confused bliss. It’s a much needed release of tension after The Room! The third play is Family Voices, from 1981, which somewhat betrays its radio origins. But, as with all the pieces, Patrick Marber’s excellent direction gives the text invigorating, yet controlled energy, as Luke Thallon, (particularly excellent), Horrocks and Graves play parents and child writing fake news to each other in a play about abandoned parents.
We are back in the cold, empty rooms that began the evening, and Pinter 5 is framed beautifully by these lost voices, despairing and still seeking love. This, so far, is the Pinter collection to really see if you can only see one; it’s a feast for sight and sound.