Pinter at the Pinter Four: Moonlight and Night School
The Jamie Lloyd Company
Harold Pinter Theatre
Following a programme with no fewer than 11 short pieces, this two and three-quarter hour-long pairing feels positively lazy, with just one play each side of an interval.
This short play written as late as 1993 and directed by Lyndsey Turner takes place around the deathbed of Robert Glenister’s Andy and has overtones of dark, sometimes mystifying Pinter successes such as No Man’s Land.
Judging by his behaviour towards a long-suffering wife, Bríd Brennan taking the role of Bel, Andy has always been a pretty nasty piece of work but even so, it is never nice to see someone in late middle-age awaiting an impending meeting with his or her maker.
The deathbed scenes during which the seriously ill patient goads his wife about a former lover, her oldest friend to boot, can be deeply unpleasant but seem to have great authenticity as if drawn from life.
Two other scenarios play out in between them, quite possibly in ravaged dreams that might even be selective memories passing through the mind of the almost deceased as he makes his way to what seems unlikely to be a better place.
First, two young men who might well be his sons though not necessarily with the same mother, josh and argue as they dress up in colourful suits, one pale blue the other salmon while talking about nothing much.
More portentous but also mysteriously impenetrable are the thoughts given voice by Isis Hainsworth’s Bridget, dressed like little Red Riding Hood and reminding Andy of better times.
At times watching Ed Stamboullian’s highly enjoyable revival of a menacing comedy written for TV in 1960 and attributed in the programme to what was presumably a first stage production in 1979, one is reminded of The Homecoming.
That is primarily because the central figure, Jessica Barden’s Sally has many of the characteristics of Ruth in that play and her harsh treatment by Robert Glenister taking the role of the sinister club owner Solto has echoes of the later work.
There is much comedy amidst the inevitable Pinteresque darker elements in this drama, from an opening that sees Walter played by Al Weaver returning to the house that he shares with his doting aunts, lovely portrayals of a pair given to double entendres by Bríd Brennan and Janie Dee, following a repeat visit to prison.
Walter’s initial discovery that the aunts have supplemented their meagre income by letting his room to an unknown young woman is tempered when the ex-con meets the perky schoolteacher whose looks would turn most young men’s heads.
She happily proposes an accommodation that allows the man of the house access to his room whenever she is out. Helpfully, this not only covers the school day but also Sally’s regular trips to learn languages at Night School.
The twist in the comic tale becomes clear when viewers are given the opportunity to follow Sally during her nocturnal activities.
Cleverly, the director makes good use of a very simple, shabby set created by Soutra Gilmour for all of these plays but complements it with the services of an energetic solo drummer (Abbie Finn) who competently helps build the drama to fever pitch at the end of a long but satisfying day characterised by sexual confusion and comic menace.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher