Poster image for One for the Road
The Print Room
Where: Outer London
19 September 2011 WOS Rating: Average Reader Rating: Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews If proof were needed that torture, and the capacity to torture, is both inhuman and all too human at the same time, the half hour of Harold Pinter’s One for the Road does the job. Revived at the Print Room (before its Young Vic run) in a double bill with Pinter’s black comedy Victoria Station, the play predates Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo by years. However, Alex Lowde’s anonymous set might be anywhere. If Kevin Doyle's interrogator Nicolas were to offer Keith Dunphy's Victor a whisky to match the one he keeps refilling for himself, this could be his living room. Nicolas is, in his own words, “the chatty type”, his verbal torture dependent on exploiting Victor’s fears (and ours too) of what might be happening to his wife and son elsewhere in the building. Even when he brings them in, much is left to the imagination.
Director Jeff James studiously avoids pantomime, coaxing an astonishingly persuasive performance from Doyle as Nicolas rehearses the kind of religious and patriotic sentiments now eerily familiar from post 9/11 rhetoric. Meanwhile Dunphy’s Victor is almost too painful to look at, a man shattered (in every sense) by questions whose answers have already been decided for him.
Victoria Station, which runs directly into the second play, their roles are reversed: Dunphy plays a wired London cab controller, Doyle his seemingly distracted (or demented?) driver. If James and his cast don’t quite nail the rhythms of this shorter piece – some of the best lines are swallowed it still sheds light on – One for the Road.
Both are games of terror in which the real threat is out of sight. But by asking us to imagine it for ourselves, Pinter forces us into the back seat and driving seat at the same time. It's a supremely discomforting ride.
- by Nancy Groves Related Content
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