Edinburgh Fringe 2011
This is a two hander that sizzles with tension in a venue that is as underground as the play was when it was first performed. The performances need a little settling down to just catch all of the pregnancy of the pause and the relationship between the two characters but in a space that is ideal you will trek long and hard in the rain to find a better example of Pinter’s work this Fringe.
I love Harold Pinter so to perform one of his texts is likely to draw my attention to you as it demands of actors a preciseness of relationships that bind the audience to the text. As such it requires a high degree of craft and the actors here are more than able to match it. I found both to be highly effective although at times there seemed to be that actor slip of “is it my line now?” detracting from the overall. That having been said I am talking one or perhaps two examples of this when the rest crackles. The significance of small events in Pinter’s writing take on huge significances as he understands, more than many other writers, how people who operate in alternate worlds have alternate ways of seeing things to the point where language operate tangentially to reality. Who, for example, would send up the smorgasbord of available treats including a stale Eccles cake when asked for cooked food?
The actors however do suffer from a set which has more of the Blue Peter than RADA about it. The Dumb Waiter itself being a selection of tea chests and funnels that need a bit of design work. Thing is it is half way there. The tea chests are reminiscent of the fifties and the door with its leg onstage rather than off gave a whiff of decadence and poverty called for in Pinter’s writing. It did however also give a degree of after thought to the piece rather than integrated thinking.
The acting however brought it above these design faults and it gave us an assured set of performances that I would happily revisit. As an example of Pinter’s work it would be hard pushed to put it up against the best but these two actors are more than competent, bringing the required pathos and absurdity to the stage with menace and mystery. I would have preferred more assuredness over the pauses as at times I thought there was less confidence in this aspect of the piece. I saw it early in the run so perhaps more audience interaction will help.
Overall the production gave the audience and myself a very pleasant time in the dungeon that is Paradise in the Vault. Both actors convinced and I will be looking for their next production.
I believe that this production just needs time to settle. It certainly gave us a great afternoon’s entertainment but there were some flaws within the piece that are able to be sorted – the minor issues with performance – or not – the design. For that reason I am convinced it could easily sit within the 4 star category as its run develops.