by Harold Pinter.
Trafalgar Studios (Studio 1) 14 Whitehall SW1A 2DY To 3 August 2013.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu, Sat 2.30pm.
Runs: 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 871 7632.
Review: Carole Woddis !0 May.
Entertaining and still shocking, even after all these years.
If there is one definition of a classic, it must be that it can be reconstituted for new times by succeeding generations. Were Harold Pinter alive, what would he make of Jamie Lloyd’s revival of The Hothouse? A play that had chequered beginnings – Pinter wrote it in 1958 between The Birthday Party and The Caretaker, laid it aside and only returned to it twenty one years later – it’s always had a slightly uneasy reception from critics.
Set in a psychiatric institution monitored by a nameless Ministry, presided over by an increasingly demented ex-Colonel Chief Medical Officer and served by junior lackeys and a female `mistress’, it bears all the distinctive marks of Pinter’s lifelong concern with the abuse of State power if in a darkly comic, chaotic form.
Seeing it again – it had two interim revivals, in 1995 at Chichester and at the Lyttelton in 2007 – one can only marvel again at the instinctive prescience Pinter demonstrated in his awareness of the perversion of psychiatry in the exercise of torture.
Jamie Lloyd’s revival in his very much transformed Trafalgar Studio with its larger acting space spreading into the audience certainly contains a harrowing scene of electro-convulsive treatment. But farce is its abiding tone.
This is Pinter in Joe Orton manner, slapstick and the surreal vying with terror, a broader, jollier canvas of theatrical colours backed by a sound score including the Everly Brothers and other 1950s fairground favourites to falsely lighten the tone.
One thinks of others’ plays, Tom Stoppard’s Every Good Boy Deserves Favour or David Storey’s Home, which have touched on similar themes.
But Hothouse is distinctive for Pinter’s disorientating linguistic facility, which happily mixes the incongruous with the banal in portraying the running of the hospital/`rest home’/sanatorium and the relationships between the staff members, whilst hinting at unspecified horrors lurking close by.
If not exactly vintage Pinter, Lloyd’s production still boasts deliciously controlled performances from John Simm as the calculating Gibbs, from John Heffernan as the aptly named Lush and Indira Varma as the typical Pinter woman, all splayed legs and lascivious flirtation.
Roote: Simon Russell Beale.
Gibbs: John Simm.
Lamb: Harry Melling.
Miss Cutts: Indira Varma.
Lush: John Heffernan.
Tubb: Clive Rowe.
Lobb: Christopher Timothy.
Director: Jamie Lloyd.
Designer: Soutra Gilmour.
Lighting: Neil Austin.
Sound/Music: Ben and Max Ringham.
Associate director: Edward Stambollouian.
World Premiere of The Hothouse was 24 April 1980 at Hampstead Theatre, directed by the author.
First performance of this production was at Trafalgar Studios, 4 May 2013.