A SLIGHT ACHE and THE LOVER
by Harold Pinter.
Mercury Theatre To 20 November 2010.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 November.
Matchingly, slightly tedious then lovely.
After staging a John Steinbeck novel, the Mercury Company completes its autumn main-stage season with a radio and TV play from Harold Pinter’s early career. Under director Gari Jones, the results are one creaky half, mainly of historical interest, and one gleamingly suave play.
On radio A Slight Ache’s silent Matchseller – somewhere between Pinter’s “weasel under the cocktail cabinet” and vandals threatening the city – was more menacing than in Graeme Brookes’s pleading figure. His manner acknowledges Pinter’s later, explicitly political drama and recalls the suffering silent statue-figure of Samuel Beckett’s Catastrophe. But Pinter knew what he was doing when making his intruder silent as he disturbs middle-class Edward and Flora’s relaxed al fresco breakfast even more than the buzzing wasp which begins the interruption.
And placing garden and living-room side-by-side leaves silent characters with nothing to do, their presence awkward (nothing can be insignificant in a Pinter play), while Dee Evans’ Flora doesn’t identify the stages marking her husband’s dispossession for the new arrival.
Yet the sophisticated modern world where Richard and Sarah live in The Lover bristles with sexual restlessness. This TV play was made to be seen, and the one lapse in Jones’ direction is the voyeuristic, leering Milkman, extending his cameo with bottles extended in pseudo-mammary fashion. His arrival is a brief trick, playing off an established joke before Pinter deals his psychological card, investigating levels of desire, play and reality as husband and wife enter roles as lovers.
Gus Gallagher is over-formal in creating husband Richard’s routine mindset – fine in its way but a bit obviously done: setting an ornamental plate precisely centre-table, walking formally in suit and tie. Yet he’s spot-on as the informally confident lover visiting his wife in the middle of the day.
And, ceremonially taking down the red high-heels in which h she greets him, loving her own body because she has a lover, Gina Isaac’s Sarah moves sleekly among the self-consciously fashionable furniture to her chosen soundtrack. But the strength of her performance comes when the games-playing is threatened. The brightness goes from Sarah’s manner and voice, in this beautifully-modulated performance.
A Slight Ache
Edward: Andrew Neil.
Flora: Dee Evans.
Matchseller: Graeme Brookes.
Sarah: Gina Isaac.
Richard: Gus Gallagher.
Milkman: Graeme Brookes.
Director: Gari Jones.
Designer: Sara Perks.
Lighting: Richard Godin.
Sound: Marcus Christensen.
Assistant director: Nicholas Barton-Wines.