THE DUMB WAITER and A KIND OF ALASKA
by Harold Pinter.
Guildhall Theatre Market Place To 27 February 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat 24 Feb 1.30pm 27 Feb 2.30pm.
Audio-described 13 Feb 7.30pm 27 Feb 2.30pm.
BSL Signed 25 Feb.
Post-show Discussion 25 Feb.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 01332 255800.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 February.
Pinter in perspective.
All change at Derby, where the Playhouse has become the Theatre, saved from financial extinction by the city’s University, which is using the studio for its own work. So, small-scale professional Theatre productions like these plays (umbrella-title “A Pair of Pinters”) have moved along the town centre to the proscenium-staged Guildhall. They show a fascinating contrast in the playwright’s work.
The Dumb Waiter helped establish Pinter’s dramatic identity in 1957. Recognisably in the manner of The Birthday Party it’s a crime story that denies the usual involvement and elucidation. Yet a gun’s produced; and at the end is about to be used. But, as Esther Richardson’s production makes clear both criminals are also victims. There have been more comic and pointedly menacing uses of the word-play, but this revival’s clearly awake to the dramatic power-play.
James Holmes’ worried, flaccid-limbed Gus combines hitman and natural victim, at the end consciously following the steps he’d been told the victim should make. And Joe Tucker’s rigidly macho Ben is also a victim of the system, introspective moments suggesting awareness of what he’ll have to do, verbal and physical violence towards Gus, impatient excuses for the apparent boss Wilson and desperation to satisfy the food orders that keep descending to them, all fuelled by anxiety.
From a quarter-century later A Kind of Alaska has none of Pinter’s archetypal power-play, menace or comedy. A beautifully precise exploration of Deborah’s experience in awakening after 29-years’ sleeping sickness, it’s given a serenely seamless production. Simon Molloy’s Hornby has evidently watched Deborah for years, keen, never intrusive and calmly informative, while Eunice Roberts is tactfully sympathetic as her sister.
Between them Julia Tarnocky’s Deborah awakens with a whisper, then the childhood voice with which she fell asleep three decades back. Astonished to find her sister a middle-aged woman, Tarnocky’s Deborah is quietly decisive in not wanting to see herself. Her slow rising from bed, dance-like floating across the room, then disturbed seeking of the bed’s protection as her voice matures and modern reality breaks-in, illuminate the sympathetic scalpel of Pinter’s language; a fine actor in a fine play.
The Dumb Waiter
Gus: James Holmes.
Ben: Joe Tucker.
A Kind of Alaska
Hornby: Simon Molloy.
Pauline: Eunice Roberts.
Deborah: Julia Tarnocky.
Diredctor: Esther Richardson.
Designer: Sawn Allsopp.
Lighting: Richard G Jones.
Sound: Adam McCready.
Film: Jamie Hook, Sarah Françoise.