Posts Tagged ‘London West End’

The Caretaker, Trafalgar Studios, March 2010

27 March, 2010

Who is the caretaker? Is it the smelly old tramp in his battered sandals, who is offered a job of that title in a house that desperately needs doing up? Is it the kindly, young, ex-mental patient Aston, who lives in the house and takes the tramp in, or is it Mick, Aston’s younger brother who keeps an eye on him? This production by Christopher Morahan allows us to ask such questions, and gives an occasional glimpse of doors to the other rooms in the house, where Mick goes, and presumably hides, to catch the old man on his own so as to destabilize and threaten him in a cruelly playful way. It also lets us question who needs whom among these three men, each with his own project to undertake: old man Davies who will retrieve his papers from Sidcup, confirming his identity so that he can then take up gainful employment; Aston who will build a shed in the garden, from which he can then do up the whole house; and Mick who will design the interior so that he can rent out the rooms in a businesslike way, taking care of the financial and legal aspects of his future business.

In the end we are left as we started, each one needing to impress the others with the sincerity of his aims, while going nowhere. In the meantime, Jonathan Pryce gave a riveting performance of Davies, and when I awoke the next morning I saw him clearly in my mind, so strong an impression had he made with his pauses, his facial expressions, and his outbursts of anger. This was the tramp himself who had somehow got onto stage and was confronting the two brothers. They were both well portrayed, Peter McDonald as the strongly impassive, introverted Aston, and Sam Spruell as the playfully aggressive would-be wide boy Mick. Aston’s retelling of his electro-shock therapy was beautifully done, and Jonathan Pryce as Davies somehow managed to inhabit every corner of the stage, furnished with designs by Eileen Diss, showing the flotsam of a life unlived. The stage itself was a single room, the doors to other rooms appearing only when the lighting penetrated the back wall. A sense of time standing almost still, conveyed by Davies’s demand for a clock, was helped by Colin Grenfell’s sombre lighting and the costumes by Dany Everett.

This fine production of Pinter’s Caretaker opened last year at the Liverpool Everyman, and continues at the Trafalgar Studios until April 17.

Hedda Gabler, Richmond Theatre, March 2010

22 March, 2010

If we as humans are motivated by sex, money and power, then Rosamund Pike’s Hedda shows a complete absence of interest in the first two, and her twisted use of power is what produces the final bang in this well-judged production by Adrian Noble. Pike portrays a beautiful, unbalanced, quick-witted but somewhat vacuous young woman, bored after a five month honeymoon, and opposing the attitudes of those around her. Her husband, Tesman is well played by Robert Glenister as a generously enthusiastic academic, apparently oblivious to his wife’s nasty streak, and Tim McInnerny portrays an engagingly Machiavellian Judge Brack, who would use his power to coerce Hedda into a sexual ménage-a-trois for his own pleasure, while Hedda herself cannot use her own power for anything, either useful or self-indulgent. Then we have Colin Tierney’s Loevborg, a brilliant and creative man with an addictive personality, inspiring Hedda to destruction rather than creation as she secretly consigns his masterpiece to the flames.

Hedda’s feminine characteristics are shown to be strikingly opposite to those of the three other women in the play. Anna Carteret is a bustling and sympathetic Auntie Juju, quite different from the lazily cold Hedda. Janet Whiteside is quietly self-effacing as Bertha the maid, where Hedda is an attention seeker, and Zoe Waites is warily friendly as Mrs. Elfsted, whose warm enthusiasm has helped Loevborg to recover from his alcoholism and create a book length manuscript that will stun the intellectual world. Hedda can do nothing to inspire anyone to intellectual creation, and her sadistic suggestion of burning Mrs. Elfsted’s hair off, as she once threatened to do as a schoolgirl, shows how little she has matured in becoming an adult. She is still her father’s daughter, fascinated by guns, and incapable of bearing the child that Aunt Juju intimates she is carrying.

This is a Hedda who can only oppose and destroy what others create, and the whole cast works together perfectly to give Rosamund Pike a role she fills with languid sparkle and cold beauty. The designs by Anthony Ward help create exactly the right atmosphere, and Hedda’s costume reminded me of the glorious silk dresses seen in one or two of Vermeer’s paintings. Congratulations to the wardrobe department, and of course to the way she wore it.

This production continues its tour to the Royal Centre, Nottingham on 22nd – 27th May, the Oxford Playhouse on 29th May – 3rd April, and is later expected to transfer to London’s West End.