Pinter Four serves up something of a difficult double bill at the Harold Pinter Theatre, but Bríd Brennan and Janie Dee are there to help us through the dark times
“Rationality went down the drain donkey’s years ago and hasn’t been seen since”
Thing about blogging is you can’t hide from the past, or your past opinions, so the fact that the first time I saw Harold Pinter’s Moonlight was one of the most torturous hours I’d spent in a theatre up until then is no secret. So the fact that it was included along with Night School in the double bill that makes up Pinter Four gave me significant – Pinteresque even… pause.
But that was seven years ago, people change, as do tastes, and the luxury casting of the Pinter at the Pinter season made it an attractive enough proposition to revisit. And am I a now Moonlight convert? Not exactly, but it did prove a less painful experience, even if it does still maintain a power to elongate time which is exacerbated by its coolly distant demeanour.
Lyndsey Turner shrinks the world of the play down to the bedroom of Andy, terminally ill and raking over his memories with a gimlet eye. As his impossibly tolerant wife Bel cares for him, he remembers past events and lovers and friends but it is an embellished version of the past, Pinter exploring the way just how subjective those memories can be.
Robert Glenister is ferociously bitter from his bed, Bríd Brennan is wittily dry as the wife who has her own secrets and there’s a brilliant cameo from Janie Dee as someone from both their pasts. Dwane Walcott and Al Weaver have a much more difficult job though as Andy’s estranged sons, their physical and emotional distance unbridged by play and production (great suits and Converse though…).
Night School proves a more traditional piece of Pinter fare, a slice of East End life full of criminals and gangsters, women who aren’t what they say they are or full-on Hackney chars. It’s lighter and funnier (farcical even) and given a striking production by Ed Stambollouian who introduces a live drummer onstage to reinforce the underlying note of menace. Weaver leads this play with aplomb and I enjoyed Jessica Barden’s performance but overall, Pinter 4 doesn’t quite live up to its predecessors.