ROBERT GORELANGTON SHOW OF THE WEEK
Harold Pinter Theatre, London Until Dec 8, 2hrs 30mins
The great Tamsin Greig stars in this latest batch of oneact Harold Pinter dramas that are being staged by director Jamie Lloyd over the next few months. She opens with Landscape, from 1969, talking with an Irish lilt about an erotic encounter by the sea. Keith Allen plays the husband who can’t connect with her. She is either ignoring him or remembering him from better, more sensual days. Either way, this gentle reverie of female desire is gorgeous to listen to. Greig also appears to truly devastating effect in A Kind Of Alaska, from 1982, about a 16-year-old girl in a nightie who wakes up after a 29-year coma in a body that’s grown middleaged without her consent. Keith Allen plays her doctor, tenderly dripfeeding her information. Meera Syal is terrific as her self-sacrificing sister and carer who looks on, wondering what has happened to her own life. The bendy comedian Lee Evans crops up throughout the evening, adding mirth. He features in Monologue, from 1973, in a one-way conversation that’s both hilarious and tragic. He’s also a face-pulling housewife (with Allen and Tom Edden) in a ‘Do you know who I saw at the butcher’s?’-type skit, reminiscent of the Cissie and Ada sketches that Les Dawson used to do with Roy Barraclough.
Trouble In The Works, from 1959, is about factory workers who take umbrage against the widgets they make. As Evans’s baffled foreman explains, ‘They’ve gone vicious about the tapered-shank, spiralflute reamers.’
The sketch predates Monty Python by ten years and reveals a welcome, playful side of the curmudgeonly Pinter that I never knew about.
Created by singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell and director Rachel Chavkin, this musical reworking of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth comes from New York. It’s staged in a speakeasy with a jazz band and a lift down to Hell, where miners slave away.Reeve Carney is like a young Cliff Richard as the troubadour Orpheus. But Eva Noblezada’s unappealing Eurydice (below, with Carney) screeches.Poor, soppy Orpheus loses her to Hades while he’s composing a love song.The live band is tight and the cast animated by André De Shields’ cool Hermes, Amber Gray’s louche Persephone, and by Patrick Page as Hades – a wicked Trump figure obsessed with building a wall and indifferent to climate change.It’s a shame that the young lovers are so beige and that the show is politically so wholesome.