I’m somewhat seduced by the Pinter Two double bill of The Lover and The Collection at the Harold Pinter Theatre – fetch the olives!
“Did you show him the hollyhocks?”
Truth be told I’m not much of a Pinter fan though I do find the occasional production to be sufficiently compelling to keep me coming back to test my prejudices. And so the Pinter at the Pinter season certainly piqued my interest, if getting me rushing out of the door to book – it took a crucial recommendation to get me to the Harold Pinter for Pinter Two – The Lover/The Collection and I have to say I’m glad I allowed myself to be persuaded.
Both directed by Jamie Lloyd, they offer complementary but contrasting 60s aesthetics (beautifully realised in Soutra Gilmour’s design) – the first part more a sitcom going strange, the second a darker, more mysterious prospect from the off. And cast to the hilt in some of the most luxurious casting a single West End season has ever garnered, it’s all really rather captivating.
The Lover sees Hayley Squires and John Macmillan as a seemingly conventional couple whose picture-perfect suburban exterior hides a predilection for some heavy-duty fantasy and roleplay. As they dip in and out of characters, the price on their IRL relationship becomes increasingly clear, especially once they move off the same page, and some exceptional lighting work from Jon Clark demonstrates the emotional toll even whilst the language becomes increasingly absurd.
The Collection is a queerer thing, literally, as Squires and Macmillan are joined by David Suchet and Russell Tovey as a pair of couples caught up in the frisson of suspected infidelity. Tovey’s gym-built Bill lives with Suchet’s Harry, is accused of sleeping with Squires’ Stella and flirts up a storm with Macmillan’s James. He luxuriates in the ripeness of Pinter’s prose here, weighting every pause with testosterone and is partnered excellently by Suchet’s prim older man with his determination not to be abandoned.
Impeccably acted and insightfully staged, this is a most effective double bill and a promising start to a season I may yet fall for more completely.