Brighton Fringe 2012
These two short Pinter plays from the early 80’s are revived at The Warren in a funny, thought-provoking and chilling production directed by Aine King. In Victoria Station, the controller sends instructions to a cabbie who is not even sure where he is, let alone where he is supposed to be going. In Family Voices, tensions increase as members of a guest house reveal themselves and are revealed in a series of unsent letters.
Otherplace Productions has a fine line up of shows at its lovely new venue The Warren and this larger space allows for the bigger audience these two short plays got and fully deserved on this first showing in a run of three.
As soon as I entered the auditorium the soundtrack alerted me to the prospect of a well thought out production. I won’t spoil the moment for those who haven’t yet seen these plays, but this choice of pre-performance music is a little stroke of genius.
Victoria Station begins with the controller in the office trying to contact ‘274’ by radio. The first breathtaking moment of this production comes when Jonathan Rice (274) appears and we understand exactly what kind of driver he is in this production and gradually make connections between him and the girl played by Emma Bird, who has been wordlessly on stage from the start. This is a stunning, audacious directorial decision that makes perfect sense and gives the play a new layer of meaning that is both contemporary and timeless. Price’s performance is equal to the challenge of Pinter’s menacing, ambiguous, darkly humorous dialogue and at times he is reminiscent of a young Michael Gambon. As the controller (Jamie Martin) begins to lose control and the question of who is willing or able to move on becomes more pertinent and sinister, love itself is synonymous with stagnation.
The second moment when this production completely took me by surprise was when Victoria Station blended seamlessly into Family Voices, making this one piece of integrated theatre rather than two separate plays. The characters from the first play become the ‘Voices’ of the second, inhabiting a seamy guesthouse described to us by the new character Bobo. Alexander Barnes’ portrayal of Bobo is a treat and he carries the energy of this second part skillfully, engaging us with bright chatter while the subtext tells a very different story. Emma Bird, whose ‘POB’ from Victoria Station becomes Mrs Withers / mother in the second part, embodies a needy dysfunction that is quite disturbing and at times very funny. Jamie Martin switches from being the controller to being a very menacing nurse – ‘the man with black hair’ – a part in which he exudes power, verging on terror. The piece closes with the chilling words of Benjamin Withers / father, played by Jonathan Rice as an extension of the driver character from Victoria Station.
This production is daring, clever and breathtaking in the best possible way. It’s funny too. If you haven’t got a ticket yet, get one very soon. Outstanding.