Mad men

What makes a play en­dure? In the case of Pin­ter’s Land, Michael Billing­ton be­lieves char­ac­ter is the key

Country Life Every Week - - Performing Arts -

or imag­ined past, we un­der­stand how the ex­u­ber­ance of mem­ory acts as a shield against the in­evitabil­ity of ex­tinc­tion.

There is another cru­cial rea­son why the play has lasted so long: Pin­ter wrote great roles for ac­tors. That in­creas­ingly strikes me as the key to any play’s longevity, which is why the cur­rent Lon­don sea­son has seen re­vivals of Ter­ence Rat­ti­gan’s The Deep Blue Sea and John Os­borne’s The En­ter­tainer, with Peter Shaf­fer’s Amadeus and ed­ward Al­bee’s Who’s Afraid of Vir­ginia Woolf? still wait­ing in the wings. Pin­ter cre­ated su­perb roles for two se­nior play­ers and it’s fas­ci­nat­ing to see how each re­vival brings out dif­fer­ent qual­i­ties in those play­ing hirst and Spooner.

It’s a well-known fact that the names de­rive from leg­endary York­shire and Lan­cashire cricket- ers and it’s a happy ac­ci­dent that Sir Pa­trick and Sir Ian them­selves de­rive from op­po­site sides of the Pen­nines. It re­in­forces the feel­ing that hirst and Spooner, how­ever so­cially dif­fer­ent, have an in­dis­sol­u­ble link and may even rep­re­sent two sides of the same char­ac­ter.

I have long be­lieved that hirst, oc­cu­py­ing a rar­i­fied world of Cham­pagne break­fasts and fi­nan­cial ad­vis­ers, em­bod­ies Pin­ter’s night­mare vi­sion of the im­pris­on­ing na­ture of suc­cess. Mean­while, Spooner, in­hab­it­ing a world of small mag­a­zines and odd jobs in pubs, leads ex­actly the kind of im­pov­er­ished ex­is­tence that Pin­ter him­self knew as a young man.

What is strik­ing about Sean Mathias’s cur­rent pro­duc­tion is how beau­ti­fully Sir Pa­trick and Sir Ian play off each other. You

Fast friends: Damien Molony, Owen Teale, Sir Pa­trick Ste­wart and Sir Ian Mckel­lan

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