The charms of Harold Pinter have long eluded me and so the idea of a £20 50-minute show in a theatre far away from mine on a TFL-challenged weekend did not fill me with the hugest amount of excitement. But the promise of a nice dinner afterwards got me there and whilst I can’t say that The Dumb Waiter provided any Damascene conversion, it was definitely better than I thought it was going to be.
Two hit men sit waiting in a basement – it is Pinter after all – expecting someone to get in touch with their next job and whilst they wait, they fill the time with banal discussions and squabbles over such minutiae as football matches from their past, the local news and the correct wording of a particular saying. The banter bounces back and forth and as the time comes ever closer to the order being received, the mood darkens into something much more menacing.
Jamie Glover’s production has a strong sense of the farcical nature of these two men’s existence, obsessed with the superficial as they avoid the unspoken weight of the reality of their employment. And as the dumb waiter in the room cranks into service, the sets of instructions that they receive leave them, and us, baffled. I don’t think it was just me whose mind kept wandering off though as the obliqueness proved to be less than riveting.
But as the finale kicks in and something close to a purpose comes to light, it does suddenly become really quite engaging and the ending cleverly leaves so much poised and a thousand questions dangling tantalisingly in the air. Clive Wood and Joe Armstrong’s performances are strongest with the comedic aspect of the production and both prove enjoyable, but such expensive brevity means I’d be hard-pressed to recommend you make much of an effort to go see it.