Malcolm Storry stoops into view as the dispossessed tramp, Davies. Complete with an overgrown beard and tangled hair, Storry provides the audience with plenty of comedy and pathos early on in and is definitely the star of the show.
Davies has been thrown out of a café and needs somewhere to live. He's a homeless vagrant who spends his life travelling all over London in search of a pit stop. After being taken in by Aston (Julian Lewis-Jones) and his brother Mick (Lee Boardman), a battle for supremacy begins. Davies pits the two brothers against each other, all the while striving for control of the house.
An intensely character-led piece, The Caretaker makes demands on each actor to stretch his talents to the ultimate limits. Following in the footsteps of Donald Pleasance and Michael Gambon, Storry could have so easily aped these lauded predecessors as Davies. But fortunately, this is an actor with a rich canvas and varies palette; he paints his own picture rather than filling in the numbers. Storry's knack for physical comedy is a particularly delightful to watch. Never before have I heard an audience laugh so much at intentional comedy.
Lewis-Jones has a more difficult time. Fleshing out the enigmatic character of Aston is not an easy task. As the play unfolds, we learn that Aston - who Davies dismisses him as a "nutter" - has been cruelly mistreated by the medical profession. Lewis-Jones conveys Aston well enough when performing with the other actors, but when holding the stage alone, he looks ill at ease and his speech seems stilted.
For his part, Boardman provides many comic moments in the less showy role of Mick, the brother who empathises with Davies early on but who then begins to understand that he is not what he seems.
The lengthy running time of The Caretaker may annoy some, as it does seem to drag on after a while. But overall this is a great piece of theatre that will make you laugh out loud; a rarity of late.
- Glenn Meads (reviewed at The Lowry in Salford)