Three by Pinter at the Donmar Warehouse

The Harold Pinter triple bill at the Donmar reminds us that Pinter has been a prolific writer for television in addition to his long career in theatre. All three plays - A Kind of Alaska, The Collection and The Lover - were originally written for television and, if nothing else, show his versatility.

Those people who still think that Pinter means an evening of long pauses will fear the worse when A Kind of Alaska opens with a long interval before one speaks. We are soon informed that the woman (who has been lying in a bed since the start of the play) has been in a coma for 29 years. During the course of the play, which is based on Oliver Sacks Awakenings, she awakens, is introduced to her sister and is informed of the length her coma. That s it. It doesn t sound very enthralling, but it s blessed with a superb performance from Penelope Wilton, oscillating between giggling adolescent and frightened woman as she tries to come to terms with her situation. Another 1960s veteran Karel Reisz directs and paces the piece superbly.

The second play, The Collection, reminds us what a wonderful writer of one-liners Pinter is. A play built around two couples: one married and one gay, whose lives are disrupted by a one-night stand (or a suspected one-night stand). Pinter himself plays the elder of the two gays in a brocaded dressing gown (a bit of a throwback that one) with Colin McFarlane as the smooth seducer. As the married couple, Douglas Hodge and Lia Williams adeptly draw the other couple into their world. Sometimes the staging betrays its television origins, but this well-constructed play does provide the only laughter of the night.

Unfortunately, The Lover's televisual origins are even more obvious. This was once a classic TV play and, at the time, deemed rather steamy stuff. But, under Joe Harmston s plodding direction and with Douglas Hodge s wooden husband, it doesn t really catch fire, despite Lia Williams best efforts to captivate as the housewife increasingly dependent on her sexual games. This was thrilling stuff thirty odd years ago; it looks contrived now.

The first two thirds of this evening are certainly worth catching, but I d give the last one miss - go for a drink instead.

Maxwell Cooter