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Stuart King

Review: PINTER 5 at the Harold Pinter Theatre

Pinter 5 Harold Pinter’s friend, colleague and fellow playwright Patrick Marber (Closer) directs the 5th instalment of “Pinter at the Pinter” which runs until 26th January.

The evening begins with the hard-hitting The Room - Pinter’s very first play (from 1957) – and is balanced by the more comedic Victoria Station and finally the emotionally detached and poignant Family Voices.

Like other parts of the current Pinter season, this triple bill offers theatregoers a varied insight into the weirdly compelling world of the master of the pregnant pause, with the first being especially au courant given the current state of Britain. The Room is a backward glance at the grim fearfulness of a time where a national instinct for being deeply suspicious of difference, reigned over a war-weary society. The piece amounts to a display of the humdrum lives of a van driver and his mousy wife at their rented rooms. Whilst initially bland, it ultimately thrives on the wrought-up, nervous, gossipy twitchiness of Jane Horrocks and the barely contained silent irritation (then later) anger and physical aggression manifested terrifyingly in Rupert Graves world-weary, down-at-heel bloke waiting for a reason to explode. The awfulness is facilitated with light and deftly handled characters which flit in and out of the scenes - each in their own way unmistakable, post-war, British clichés. That said, the piece also possesses an unexpected degree of humour which highlights the quintessentially British knack for placing the most ridiculous elements of any sinister circumstance under a glaring spotlight for all to witness and be embarrassed by. The fear and ignorance which constitute most xenophobic situations (and this is one of those) have rarely been conveyed with the level of unspoken eloquence deployed here. As a consequence, the occasionally amusing exchanges also succeed in being exceedingly unsettling.

Graves and Horrocks are joined on stage by Colin Macfarlane, Emma Naomi, Luke Thallon and Nicholas Woodeson across the evening’s 3 elements and they offer a uniformly astute interpretation of Pinter’s often bizarre and disturbing realities. Whilst they all acquit themselves admirably in the pursuit of grim honesty and subdued quirkiness, ultimately the undoubted on-stage talents neither aim for, nor deliver an uplifting experience.

Pinter 5 tickets