There was a time when the plays of Harold Pinter were considered to be “difficult” for ordinary theatre-goers. Fifty years after the first production of The Caretaker, its elliptical dialogue and the shifting relationships of its three characters seems quite natural and perfectly clear. Davies, Aston and Mick may be in the quicksands but we – the audience – are safely on the promontory with a perfect oversight of the drama beneath us.
Michael Cabot’s new touring production for London Classic Theatre marks both the play’s half-centenary and the completion of the company’s first decade. It is strongly cast with Nicholas Gasson dominating as the tramp Davies and Richard Stemp as Aston making much of his monologue detailing the electrical shock treatment meted out almost as standard for those unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with psychiatric problems in the years immediately after the Second World War.
Menace is contained within all three characters, here made most active in Nicholas Gadd’s Mick. The balance between day-dream and legitimate aspiration, wishful thinking and concrete achievement (which is at the core of all three men) is fully demonstrated visually as well as audibly. Geraldine Bunzl’s set is a complex of cluttered space dusted in shades of dingy brown. The world outside, representing both escape and entrapment, is lightly drawn but ever present; trains rattle past the broken window, rainwater plops through the ceiling into a bucket, a vacuum-cleaner whirls itself into a potential weapon.