Pinter at the Pinter – Pinter Three & Four – Review

Lee Evans and Tom Edden in Pinter Three. Images Marc Brenner.

The Pinter at the Pinter season continues with parts Three and Four which showcase both Pinter’s comic brilliance and his ability to move an audience.

Pinter Three opened yesterday afternoon at the Harold Pinter Theatre with a theme of communication – or lack of it.

Husbands and wives, co-workers and carers, struggle to make themselves understood in a series of one-act plays and sketches.

Pinter’s well observed dialogue, complete with loaded hesitations, cuts to the heart of frequently difficult and awkward social interaction.

Pinter Three opens with Keith Allen’s Duff wittering on about walking the dog and the art of keeping beer, while his wife, Tamsin Greig’s Beth, fantasises about a past love.

The pair rarely talk to each other or even look at each other, sharing the same orbit but unable to relate to each other. It’s less a play about a married couple and more a pair of monologues running in tandem.

Lee Evans, who has come out of retirement for Jamie Lloyd’s ambitious Pinter season, and Meera Syal, perform a sketch (with a pair of vintage brick mobiles) which mirrors those typically English phone conversations which result in nothing important or useful actually being said.

“How are you?” One asks. “Oh, you know. Terribly well..apart from..you know,” replies the other.

It’s followed by more epic humour from one of our finest and much missed comic actors.

Evans and Tom Edden bringing the house down with series of hilarious sketches.

Evans has lost none of his comic timing and brilliance and it’s a tragedy that Evans no longer performs. Surely his success here must persuade him to consider a return to the stage.

Yesterday, without missing a beat, he ad-libbed – using few words but just an upwards glance and a shrug of the shoulders – as a sudden, exquisitely timed, torrential downpour outside the theatre, provided the perfect sound effects to his monologue.

Earlier, he and Edden propped up a bar, pints in hands, to argue the toss over back strain, delivering the sort of comedy routine that was regularly performed by The Two Ronnies.

And the pair, a winning double act, had the audience in stitches with Pinter’s Trouble In The Works which sees a factory foreman clash with his boss after the workers decide that they ‘don’t like the products.’

In Girls Edden delivers a riotous monologue about the frustration of losing an fascinating magazine article about spanking before he had the chance to finish it.

Pinter Three closes with Tamsin Greig giving a powerful and deeply moving turn as a patient brought out of a coma after 29 years.

A Kind Of Alaska is Pinter’s 1982 adaptation of Awakenings, Oliver Sacks’ remarkable story that was made into a film with Robin Williams.

Greig is Debbie, who was just 16 when she fell asleep. Now she’s awake but unable to process the passage of time.

The profoundly poignant play tugs at your heartstrings with Greig outstanding as the child trapped inside a middle-aged woman’s body.

Pinter Four concentrates on just two plays – Moonlight, from 1993, and, from his early years, Night School – which clearly demonstrate Pinter’s love of comedy.

Moonlight’s rich dialogue and plot is almost Shakespearean as Pinter explores lust, betrayal and familial estrangement with Andy, a top civil servant, his long suffering wife, Bel, and their two sons.

Andy is inexplicably on his death bed yet, as he faces the inevitable with thinly disguised fear, he can’t resist callously continuing a lifetime’s abuse of his wife.

Ghosts from his past return to haunt him. His mistress – who he shared with his wife – a close friend, their long lost daughter, all appear at his bed.

Yet, despite having to listen to her husband’s insensitive and cynical remarks, you can’t help feeling that Bel (Brid Brennan) is having the last laugh by outliving her loudmouth, boorish husband.

Robert Glenister gives a cracking turn as the bedridden Andy who defies the procedure of dying while simultaneously yearning for one last meeting with his sons.

But Jake (Al Weaver) and Fred (Dwane Walcott) are in no mood to play the game and refuse to give him the satisfaction of a last reconciliation.

They turn out to be, very much, chips off the old block.

Night School gives audiences a new vaudeville double act in Janie Dee and Brid Brennan as elderly sisters Milly and Annie.

They’re a hoot in this classic Pinteresque comedy which, like Moonlight, deals with deception and betrayal.

This is Pinter at his funniest, most absurd and darkly surreal, and is a superb example of his genius wit, characterisation and language.

Al Weaver’s Walter has just come out of prison after a nine-month stretch and he wants to go straight because, he admits, he’s not actually very good at being a criminal.

He returns home to Milly and Annie to discover they’ve let his room to a young teacher but, it turns out that she’s not everything she claims to be.

Robert Glenister returns to give a standout turn as a London gangster, Peter Polycarpou pops on as a sleazy nightclub owner, and Weaver delights as a hapless crook.

Drummer Abbie Finn gives Ed Stambollouian’s production a ’70s jazz feel, with a sizzling on-stage performance, but it’s Janie Dee and Brid Brennan’s food-obsessed comedy patter that I’ll remember.

Pinter Three and Four run at the Harold Pinter Theatre until December 8.

Pinter at the Pinter
  • Pinter Three
  • Pinter Four
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Summary

Pinter at the Pinter season continues with Pinter Three & Four which showcase both the writer’s comic brilliance and his ability to move an audience.

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