Reading Repertory Theatre begins its inaugural season with a production of Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter, arguably one of the greatest modern plays and no easy task for a fledgling company to undertake.
Gus and Ben, played by Rick Romero and Gary Richens respectively, are two hit-men awaiting instructions from their boss, Wilson, in a basement room. As the play progresses, tensions rise between the pair, aggravated by the arrival of increasingly bizarre orders through the serving hatch at the back of the room.
The Dumb Waiter is an absurd, fascinating, unsettling and often very funny piece of theatre, and is presented simply and effectively in Reading College’s intimate studio space. As with most Pinter, the dark comedy of the play relies solely on the relationship between the pair, built through the use of silence and subtext.
Director Paul Stacey manages to completely sustain the pace and energy throughout, with moments of truly believable mania in his interpretation. Unfortunately some lighting changes seem unjustified and odd, and this damages the simple and organic feel of the production, but is only a small complaint.
Romero is fantastic as Gus, giving a carefully considered performance with just the right tone. Richens struggles more as Ben, not delivering quite the right level of authority and control in parts, and occasionally becoming a little awkward in his movements and physicality. Nonetheless the pair work well together and keep the audience gripped through the whole play.
The greatest asset to the production is the astonishing set, designed by Victoria Spearing, setting a perfect atmosphere in the theatre, and heightening the quality and depth of the piece as a whole. Spearing’s trademark attention to detail and her use of texture in the constructed room makes the production feel professional and quite an event for the audience.
It’s safe to say that with Stacey at the helm, Reading Repertory Theatre is an exciting and fresh addition to the South-East arts scene, and that this production of The Dumb Waiter is an excellent start.