The Country

Martin Crimp
Salberg Studio, Salisbury Playhouse
(2011)

The Country production photo

The clue to appreciation of Martin Crimp's most recent play The Country, revived this week in Jo Davies' teasing production for Salisbury Playhouse studio, lies in the frequent comparison of his work with those of the late Harold Pinter.

Well, what else would you expect of a work premiered at the Royal Court in 2000 by the English Stage Company?

For Pinter, when asked, on Desert Island Discs or in any other BBC studio, if a particular play or line meant "this" or "that" would invariably reply, "Well, if that's what you want it to mean "

I can imagine Crimp responding in quite the same way. Certainly, some most distinguished colleagues in the critical business are quick to assert that questions posed in this play are slowly answered in performance without, for a moment, suggesting what those answers may be.

I must come clean and confess that at the conclusion of the performance I was every bit as much in the dark as I had been at the start. Of course, that may be that this production is not, as was the original, Katie Mitchell's "subtle and creepy" version, but Jo Davies's quite mischievous and teasing account.

But then as Pinter might have said (and almost did), "You pays your money and you takes your choice" or was that Joe Gargery in Great Expectations?

For what it is worth, the answer to the questions raised by Crimp is, according to one of my more erudite colleagues, drugs and sex, those hardy annuals!

Me? I am still wondering just who was Rebecca, the young woman found unconscious at the end of the lane? Why did Dr Richard bring her home? Does the marriage of Richard, a smooth performance by Brendan Hughes, and Corrine, a charming if only occasionally dramatic performance by Cate Hamer, really exist at all? And what was the ultimate fate of Rebecca and her role in either of Richards' weaknesses?

Design by Chloe Lamford is at least as Pinteresque as any of the action - and I particularly enjoyed the rainfall.

This is definitely the stuff of which studio theatres are made . You may or may not, find it spine chilling. You may, or may not, work it out.

Perhaps the whole thing is best enshrined in the words of Rebecca, "The more you talk, the less you say".

Harold Pinter, let alone Martin Crimp, might have had something to say about that?

The production runs in the Salberg Studio until Saturday 7th May.

Reviewer: Kevin Catchpole