by Harold Pinter.

Shoreditch Town Hall 380 Old Street EC1V 9LT To 11 December 2011.
7pm 22-27 Nov; 6-11 Dec.
9.15pm 24-26 Nov 6-10 Dec.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.

TICKETS: 0844 243 0785.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 20 November.

A fearful amalgam, frighteningly up-to-date and close-to-home at times in an inspired Pinter assemblage.

When do democratic council chambers turn into chambers of totalitarianism? As audience members are individually security-checked before being led politely upstairs at Shoreditch Town Hall, there’s time to reflect how the representatives of the people become separated from the people.

Setting this promenade compilation of late, brief Harold Pinter plays in council buildings in Brighton and now London is the first inspired step of Ellie Jones’ Hydrocracker production, capitalised upon by the ever-resourceful Barbican. Like Dante’s journey in politicised reverse, things start upstairs with an unsettling press conference, before lining audience members along a downstairs corridor as victims from Mountain Language are shouted at and pushed around.

By now politeness is minimal and formulaic. Even that disappears down in the basement, where brief scenes of torture are observed, while cries and blows ricochet from other rooms.

A thread through this growing hell is Pinter’s One for the Road, where the interrogations of a prisoner, his son and wife are split, the son discovered under a table of a room everyone’s just entered, loomed over by his interrogator, the wife left a physically wounded sculpture after torture.

One for the Road ends with a devastating revelation through simple use of a tense, its impact resounding as the dungeon door finally opens and the prisoner, followed by the audience, silently make their way into the street. Till then the power of language has exhibited the language of power: the victims here say next-to-nothing, having been badly beaten, and knowing their views mean nothing.

Hugh Ross is excellent and unforced from his opening ministerial speech, where threat leaks in and phrases take on a bleak significance, his cheerful manner later asserting power over prisoners. There’s strong work from Richard Hahlo as the wary, quivering prisoner (formerly handing-out pamphlets as people entered), Jane Wood as the old peasant-woman paralysed by her fear, and others.

Physical violence is evident; the threat of it crouches implicit in the words: the obscenities describing prisoners, the stifled comedy of oppression’s mistaken moments. Grim and bear it is the hopeless-seeming answer in this torture-factory with the smiling cosmetic surface.

Cast: Esther Ruth Elliot, Richard Hahlo, Hugh Ross, Ross F Sutherland, Matthew Wait, Jem Wall, Jane Wood.
Community Participants: Emma Dennis-Edwards, Arielle Free, Jenny Glitrhero, Harry Harrington, Bryony Jarvis-Taylor, Clare Joseph, Gerry Knoud, Cem Pakiry-Turgut, Alex Papadakis, Andrea Pope, Cherish Shirley,
Boy: Finlay gee/Pieter Snepvangers.

Director: Ellie Jones.
Designer: Ellen Cairns.
Lighting: Tim Mascall.
Sound: Thor McIntyre-Burnie.
Assistant director: Corinne Miscallef.

2011-11-21 23:19:04

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