Robert gore­lang­ton shows of the week

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - THEATRE -

2hrs 5mins 1hr 30mins Harold Pin­ter The­atre, Lon­don Un­til Jan 26

Starry casts are the hall­mark of Jamie Lloyd’s sea­son of short Pin­ter plays. The fifth col­lec­tion starts with The Room, from 1957, writ­ten while Pin­ter was a young ac­tor ap­pear­ing in rep. Ru­pert Graves plays Bert, who silently scoffs bread, ba­con and weak tea, while Jane Hor­rocks, splendid as his inane mis­sus, Rose, wit­ters on about the weather. ‘It’s mur­der,’ she says of the cold out­side. There’s your clue. In Pin­ter­land, ev­ery­thing’s mur­der. It’s to do with all those who­dun­nits he used to ap­pear in.

Pa­trick Mar­ber di­rects, ex­tract­ing as much menace as you’ll ever get out of this play’s mad­den­ing mys­tery, in which the ar­rival of a blind man (Colin McFar­lane) causes ex­is­ten­tial panic.

Vic­to­ria Sta­tion, from 1982, is light re­lief. Graves is a cab­bie who’s to­tally lost the plot: ‘Vic­to­ria Sta­tion – never heard if it.’ Colin McFar­lane is ter­rific as his fu­ri­ous con­troller, is­su­ing phys­i­cal threats over the squelch of ra­dio static. It’s a fine sketch, more sat­is­fy­ing than 1981’s Fam­ily Voices, about a son (Luke Thal­lon) who has lost con­tact with his par­ents. Pin­ter groupies will note that the writer was him­self spurned by his own son Daniel, who failed to at­tend his fa­ther’s fu­neral.

No Pin­ter play is happy. In­deed, bil­ious­ness is on tap in 1991’s Party Time, from Pin­ter Six. It’s about an ex­clu­sive club where the well-heeled mem­bers drink while may­hem rules the streets. Phil Davis creep­ily prom­ises that af­ter ‘a bit of a round-up’, things will be back to nor­mal out­side.

Cel­e­bra­tion – from 2000 and the other half of Pin­ter Six – is about brothers and their wives enjoying (or not) a wed­ding-an­niver­sary binge in a posh Lon­don restau­rant. Davis and Ron Cook (the lat­ter su­perb) are the load­sa­money cock­ney wide boys. Tra­cyAnn Ober­man and Celia Im­rie are their gold­lamé wives. John Simm plays a slimy banker who mar­ried his sec­re­tary (Kather­ine Kings­ley), whom he calls ‘a scrub­ber’.

The drunken din­ner is over­seen by Gary Kemp as the oleagi­nous restau­ra­teur, and Abra­ham Popoola makes a strik­ing ap­pear­ance as an ec­cen­tric waiter. But it’s a one-note show, Pin­ter un­will­ing to com­mu­ni­cate any­thing much ex­cept his con­tempt. You might think you’re get­ting Pin­ter the prophet; what you’re re­ally get­ting is Pin­ter the snob.

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