A pal­lid Pin­ter

The Jewish Chronicle - - Arts & Entertainment -

NO MAN’S LAND Duke of York’s The­atre, Lon­don WC2

HAROLD PIN­TER’S mys­te­ri­ous Hamp­stead play is no less fas­ci­nat­ing now than when he wrote it in 1974. But for this starry re­vival it seems to have con­founded this coun­try’s fastest ris­ing di­rec­tor, Ru­pert Goold.

The set­ting is the plush home of the wealthy Hirst (Michael Gam­bon) whose guest is poor poet Spooner (David Bradley). In the first act they are strangers who met at Jack Straw’s Cas­tle just a few hours pre­vi­ously. In the sec­ond act the duo spar over shared mem­o­ries of ro­man­tic con­quests while stu­dents at Ox­ford.

If their his­tory is un­clear, their re­la­tion­ship is cer­tain. Spooner is a dow­nat-heel op­por­tunist who at­tempts to in­vei­gle his way into Hirst’s lux­ury, cur­tained do­main. Though to do so he will have to sup­plant one of Hirst’s in­tim­i­dat­ing min­ders — David Wal­liams’s smooth Foster, or Nick Dun­ning’s bruiser, Briggs.

Gam­bon’s mes­meris­ing Hirst is a brood­ing, whisky-sat­u­rated melan­cholic who hi­lar­i­ously sobers up into an ebul­lient and gen­er­ous host. De­spite his skinny frame, Bradley’s bluff and blus­ter re­calls a cow­ardly Fal­staff. But this cow­ard never seems to be­lieve he is in mor­tal dan­ger, even as the heav­ies bear down on him. And nei­ther did I. There is ten­sion and dan­ger here, but not enough, and not least be­cause Wal­liams’s dead­pan hard-man de­liv­ery is just not very in­ter­est­ing — at least, no where near as in­ter­est­ing as Dun­ning’s coiled Briggs who could lay waste to every­one in the room if trig­gered.

The re­sult is that the at­ten­tion drifts to Giles Ca­dle’s sub­tly pe­riod de­sign of an ex­pen­sive if vul­gar liv­ing room com­plete with flashy drinks bar and the lat­est in ’70s mod-cons, like spot­lights. It was dur­ing one of th­ese longueurs that the thought occurred that maybe the cur­tains should be elec­tric. And that Goold’s pro­duc­tion should be too. (Tel: 0870 060 6623)

THE WHITE DEVIL Me­nier Chocolate Fac­tory, Lon­don SE1

THE CHOCOLATE Fac­tory spe­cialises in re­viv­ing mu­si­cals, (Sond­heim’s Lit­tle Night Mu­sic is next), so with this res­ur­rec­tion of Web­ster’s Ja­cobean re­venge tragedy it is branch­ing out.

At the end of this ad­mirably fast­mov­ing pro­duc­tion a lone care­taker walks on to the Chocolate Fac­tory’s tra­verse stage and ca­su­ally mops up the blood.

Mop­ping blood is al­ways poignant. It sug­gests that the bru­tal­ity just wit­nessed is not par­tic­u­lar to the evening’s events — in this case the real-life adul­tery and cor­rup­tion in Italy’s 16th-cen­tury court that in­spired John Web­ster to write his play — but part of the hu­man con­di­tion, a point high­lighted by di­rec­tor Jonathan Munby’s de­ci­sion to opt for a mod­ern-dress pro­duc­tion.

Yet de­spite all the stab­bing, shoot­ing, stran­gling and poi­son­ing — staged with an am­bi­tion that is typ­i­cal of this venue — the pool of blood seems rather small com­pared to some of the un­re­strained per­for­mances here. Nitzan Shar­ron’s Mar­cello is all (very) camp con­spir­acy as he slyly or­gan­ises the af­fair be­tween his mar­ried siren sis­ter Vit­to­ria (Claire Price) and Dar­rell D’Silva’s cal­lous Duke Brachi­ano. This is the af­fair that leads to a trail of mur­der, much of it car­ried out on the Duke’s be­half and which he wit­nesses through vi­sions con­jured by his doc­tor’s gas mask and hy­po­der­mic.

But de­spite Claire Cox’s dig­ni­fied per­for­mance as Brachi­ano’s poi­soned wife Is­abella, the evening is char­ac­terised more by Dy­lan Charles’s black-clad hit­man Count Lodovico, who would have been more sin­is­ter with less sneer­ing.

What I missed here was the heart­less­ness that so in­formed Melly Still’s re­cent Na­tional The­atre pro­duc­tion of The Re­venger’s Tragedy, where killing was as com­mon as cur­rency. Still, the evening is not without its re­wards, even if there is the sense that the Chocolate Fac­tory will be on home ground when they re­turn to Sond­heim. (Tel: 020 7907 7060)

Michael Gam­bon and David Bradley in the dis­ap­point­ing No Man’s Land

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