Written in 1958, Pinter's second full-length play did not receive its first professional staging for more than 20 years and - compared to some of his best known plays such as The Birthday Party, Betrayal, Old Times and The Homecoming - is rarely performed. The last major production was seen in the West End in 1995, when Pinter himself starred.
In the black comedy about paranoia and office infighting, Mr Roote struggles to manage a mysterious, faceless 'rest home' believing that his ever-smiling staff are in support of him. But when patients and a new staff member go missing, events are brought to a sinister head.
At the NT, Stephen Moore is Mr Roote in a cast that also features Lia Williams, Finbar Lynch, Paul Ritter and Leo Bill. The production is directed by Ian Rickson, who stepped down as artistic director of the Royal Court at the start of the year, and designed by Hildegard Bechtler, with lighting by Peter Mumford.
Overnight reviews were generally all in agreement, saying that the play works as a great example of Pinter’s unique style. Critics praised the “balance of darkness and light”, and reported that the production “bristles with unease and menace”. Also acclaimed across the board was the set, with Bechtler’s “intricate, gruesomely shabby” government institution adding to the intense, claustrophobic atmosphere of the piece. Moore’s portrayal of Roote was compared to both Churchill and Captain Mainwaring, complimentary references in both instances. Lynch is seen as “chilling” and “dehumanised”, and all other members of the cast received lavish praise. The only real criticism was to do with the “excessively verbose” second half, though this view was not shared by all.
- by Ryan Woods & Stuart Denison
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