The Dwarfs by Harold Pinter adapted by Kerry Lee Crabbe. The White Bear Theatre, 138 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 to 5 June 2022. 5*****. William Russell

This powerful revival of a play Kerry Lee Crabbe crafted some 20 years ago from Harold Pinter’s only novel has its weaknesses but the four strong cast deliver impeccable performances, indeed it is hard to see how they could be bettered and one leaves at the end drained after ninety minutes of three unlikely lads misbehaving and one woman rising above it all. The action takes place mostly in the dingy flat belonging to Pete (Joseph Potter), a gangling soul who works for the railways and leans on is two best mates, Mark (Charlie MacGechan), an actor – the Pinter character, the novel being somewhat autobiographical – who does his own self satisfied thing, and Len (Owen Perrot), who is a tailor and very, very mixed up. These are likely lads with deep problems about the nature of their masculinity. As often with Pinter there is a woman, Virginia (Denise Laniyan), in there at the centre. She is Len’s bird – being a tailor he dresses her, he abuses her, and he is completely overwhelmed by the fact she is far cleverer than he is. The violence escalates and becomes quite terrifying durimg the progress of the play. Virginia, of course, is her own woman, has a job, knows the three for what they are, and refuses to be sucked into the maelstrom of their lives, especially that in which Len is rapidly drowning. She will sleep with Mark to get it over with – he is a predator sniffing round – and then leave. Meanwhile the hapless Pete drowns, plays his recorded, has an abortive trip to Paris, spends a couple of happy days in hospital where he gets what he needs – looked after. Director Harry Burton keeps the whole thing moving briskly, which is just as well because there is a point about an hour in – it lasts a little over 90 minutes – when one starts to tire of the rapid series of short quick fire scenes which make up the play.
Isabella van Braseckel has come up with a marvellous set all dingy brown for Pete’s flat and the background world has been neatly conjured up by sound designer Julian Starr. The Dwarfs, by the way, are fantasy folk he lives with who keep his crumbling world in some sort of order. To be honest had Pinter wanted this to be a play he would have written it but that is not to take away from the sheer theatricality of the work Kerry Lee Crabbe has created. It is an evening full of what Pinter was to do in later plays so for that alone it is worth seeing, a sort of source material really.
But the sexual turkey cock posturing of MacGechan, the pure nerd agonies of Potter, and the skin deep bravado hiding God knows what of the even more insecure Perret are all reasons to see it – add a beautifully controlled performance from Leniyan and the reasons become impossible to resist. It is not a five star play but the performances and production certainly deserve them.

Denise Laniyan: Virginia.
Charlie MacGechan: Mark.
Osian Perrot: Len.
Joseph Potter: Pete.
Director: Harry Burton.
Set & Costume Designer: Isabella van Braeckel.
Lighting Designer: Chuma Emembolu.
Julian Starr: Sound Designer & Composer.
Production Photographs: Bec Austin.

ReviewsGate Copyright Protection