Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Harold Pinter-A Selection Of Short Plays -Review- People's Theatre

Harold Pinter-A Selection Of Short Plays
People's Theatre 
7 Feb 2012

Situated in the comfortable small, almost sitting room sized studio area of The People's Theatre complex we are tonight treated to A Selection Of Short Plays by Harold Pinter, the Nobel prized British playwright, director and actor.
A Slight Ache is the first of the eight -mini plays on offer. I must admit that I was a bit perplexed with the content, not sure if the characters Flora and her husband Edward (bit of a fractious marriage) were having flashbacks of their life, or that I was just missing the whole thing; Pinter admittedly is new on me, so not being sure of his writing style I gave him the benefit of the doubt and took it to be the latter. Still great acting, but a bit of a lengthy start for a series of short plays.
The length of the remaining six in the first half were surprisingly sweeter and shorter.
Night had another married couple reminiscing about the first time they met, with humourous and witty dialogue that was gladly for me a million miles away from the first play. I really related to this 'sketch' as I often have to be prompted as to when/why/what I got up to when I met my partner for the first time. It really showed the differences between the male and the female perspective of love within a relationship.
Special Offer was a mega fast one, a secretary performing a monologue in an office, speaking about an offer of Men For Sale, a very well acted and humourous performance.
Trouble In The Works reminded me of the good old days of the black and white Ealing comedies. Trade unionist or spokesperson coming in to the office of the big boss, making claims and demanding progress, the dialogue was like a good tennis match -back and forth, but with the tie resulting in a draw/stalemate.
Request Stop is a line up at a bus stop of a typical cross section of the public, the gobby woman shouting the odds, the 'say nothing, but somehow making things worse' man and a couple that had nothing to add or to appease the situation. Another Pinter winner, that had the audience laughing all the way.
The Black And The White almost straight from the script writers of Eastenders, had two old women at an all night cafe, discussing the merits of soup, bread, who to talk to, who not to, and the super services of the night buses in London.
The Last To Go, was actually the last to go before the break, it contained probably the least dialogue seen on the stage tonight, but it just goes to show sometimes you don't need much to be successful. A powerful set of witty one liners, bartering words between a newspaper vendor and a coffee shop assistant at the close of business.
Half time and I could sense that maybe a few of the crowd might not be back for the return of the actors to the stage. Could it be that some of them struggled (like I did) with the complex nature of the plays, I mean this wasn't laugh a minute comedy on offer, this is serious problematic thought process writing.
The second half arrives maybe a few of the audience have disappeared, maybe you should never leave a theatre half way through, like you should never leave a football match before it ends.
A Kind Of Alaska with a great set up of a clinic complete with bed centre stage, is our 'Tour De Force' for the night, a superb performance of age and time, with complicated characters just willing you to love them and vice versa. The story centres around Deborah who has woken from a sleeping sickness condition after 29 years, everything is different and difficult, not just for her but those around her. The immense emotion was, I am sure, felt by everybody in the studio. It took me back to my youth and right back to who I am now, a totally different kettle of fish. Very very thought provoking material.

After the performance, I am still unsure as to whether I 'get' Pinter, his humour is there to see, but the motives around the seriousness of his topic is still amiss with me.
Great direction from Mary MacDonald, with Jerry Cooper and Tom Carr at the helm for the lighting and sound.
A super all round performance by all actors on the stage (some doubling up) but a stunning display by Penny Lamport as Deborah, followed by Robin Lewsey and Rye Mattick in A Kind Of Alaska sealed off a superb second half.

Runs until Feb 11th

Michael Hunter

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