5 December 2015 (Sat), London Trafalgar Studios
A little Pinter goes long way with me, but this was the one play that my friend and I could agree on; I felt I should see it at some point anyway. As with most Pinter plays, it’s too stylized and obscure to make much sense, though the characterizations on their own were interesting. A brother, who has gone off to the US, brings his wife home for the first time after years of marriage and introduces her to his misogynistic widower dad, his hopeless two brothers and his chauffeur uncle. Thrown in the middle of a bullying, macho, frat-type environment, the wife uses her sexual wiles to manipulate all and gain control.
A red wire frame around the door radiated out in numerous frames, making an interesting close-up effect. The direction seemed more a series of strong moments than a coherent whole; the woman’s ultimate dominance came out of nowhere. The characters had an irritating way of standing downstage, looking out at the audience and posing. The material would benefit if presented in a more naturalistic way, to the extent that’s possible with this play. Music was used to punctuate intervals between dialogues, where silence would have been more effective – isn’t silence the key distinction of a Pinter play?
Ron Cook as the father was unsparing in his bile and bluster, no holds barred. That was the performance of the night. He made his Archie Bunker-ish dialogue totally believable. Keith Allen as his brother was subtly fey, nicely balanced. The wife (Gemma Chen) was good, especially in the key leg-crossing moment, though that sprang from nowhere in this director’s version. The brothers were various: the husband was fine, the youngest a bit too posed, the boxer (played by an afro-ed black actor – I didn’t realize he was a sibling until the second act) amateurish with a strange voice and a sense of following directions rather than moving organically. I’m not sure this production made the best case for the show, but I’m not particularly interested in seeing it again to confirm that.