And so the Pinter at the Pinter season at the Harold Pinter Theatre draws to a close with one of Harold Pinter’s most famous short plays – The Dumb Waiter – performed alongside another short, A Slight Ache.
A Slight Ache, dating from 1958, was originally a radio play, and director Jamie Lloyd has retained the conceit by having the actors – Gemma Whelan and John Heffernan – perform as if they are in a recording studio, speaking into microphones and making use of Foley equipment to add sound effects. It is the story of a married couple whose lives are slowly drawn into disarray by a mysterious match seller at the bottom of the garden. His presence reveals hidden depths and desires in our two protagonists, Edward drawn out into telling long tales and Flora revealing long-suppressed desires. Whelan and Heffernan’s performances are superb, and the tension is palpable.
The Dumb Waiter, dating from 1957, is also full of tension but in addition is very funny. Martin Freeman and Danny Dyer are superb as the two hitmen waiting in a Birmingham basement to carry out their next job. Dyer is Ben, clearly the leader of the pair, and Freeman is Gus, his more insecure subordinate. When the nearby dumb waiter starts sending down random restaurant orders, the pair respond with confusion, bewilderment and fear, sending teabags, a packet of biscuits and an Eccles cake up in lieu of what has actually been ordered. It’s a glorious mix of the realistic and the absurd, switching between the two modes in a way that’s as impressive as the mix of drama and humour.
I’m sorry to see the end of this season, which has been exciting and hugely enjoyable. I can’t get too sad though, as there’s Pinter’s Betrayal starring Tom Hiddleston to look forward to next…