The Merry Widow (Salford - Opera North)
ENRON (Tour - Newcastle upon Tyne)

The Caretaker (Tour - Oldham)

By • Northwest
WOS Rating:
London Classic Theatre presents Harold Pinter's darkly comic work, in which down-and-out Davies is kindly taken in by not-all-there Aston. Their new arrangement is disrupted by Mick – Aston's streetwise younger brother – and a power struggle begins. Alliances shift and grand ideas are formed, but as the three men are stifled by their own inertia, it becomes apparent that their lives are unlikely ever to change.

Nicholas Gasson is convincing as the wide-eyed, querulous old Davies, and John Dorney is wonderfully intimidating as deadpan, frustrated Mick. However, Richard Stemp's understated performance as Aston is the most captivating – his often comic monosyllables building to a surprising, heartbreaking monologue as he recalls his time in “hospital”.

The cast copes admirably with the rhythm of Pinter's text, and there isn't a word out of place in this complex verbal ballet. Michael Cabot's direction gives the trio some great comic moments such as the three-way struggle with Davies' bag – which also neatly illustrates the forces at work between the men.

It's a shame that due to the natural emphasis on Pinter's sparkling dialogue, there are only a few instances in which the characters' physicality is explored, and at times the intensity of their emotion cries out for more movement on stage. It would also be interesting to see them interacting more with Geraldine Bunzl's towering, tumbledown attic set, which largely remains a backdrop.

As a great example of Pinter's ability to create drama in surprisingly ordinary settings,The Caretaker is certainly worth a look. However, with more imaginative staging – and emphasis on the individual characters' physical traits – it could be made more accessible to a modern audience.

- Harriet Chandler

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