Pinter at the Pinter Five: The Room, Victoria Station and Family Voices
The Jamie Lloyd Company
Harold Pinter Theatre
Pinter at the Pinter Five is a two-hour-long program that consists of three relatively short plays directed by Patrick Marber. At the heart of each is mystery and obfuscation with very little clarity, underlying metaphor as important as what is stated at surface level.
The longest play, which was written in 1957, largely centres on Jane Horrocks. She grasps the attention, delivering an impressively nuanced performance as the nervous, befuddled Mrs Hudd. Indeed, for the whole of the long opening scene and most of the rest of the play, Rupert Graves as her husband literally does not utter a word.
Instead, he listens to her rabbiting on about the other occupants of what is obviously a large but decrepit house.
Her thoughts are illuminated to an extent by a series of visitors. First, there is Nicholas Woodeson’s vague, Irish Mr Kidd, apparently the owner, although this proposition is thrown into doubt by subsequent conversations.
A young couple, the Sands are next on the scene, arguing with each other as they inform their hostess that a room in the house is available, raising in her a spectre of fear.
Lastly, a blind man arrives, seemingly intent on uncovering a mysterious past with devastating consequences.
Putting everything together and trying to come to a reasonable conclusion about either the playwright’s intentions or the underlying meaning could prove challenging for any viewer.
This two-hander from 1982 benefits from strong performances by Rupert Graves as a taxi driver and Colin McFarlane, his West Indian controller.
What should be a simple interaction lasting seconds, as the cabbie is offered a lucrative job, turns into a typical Pinterest nightmare. On one side, the controller becomes increasingly angry at the indifference of his lackadaisical colleague. On the other, the man in the driver’s seat shows unexpected ignorance about the London landscape, his job and the person trying to do him a favour.
Depending upon your point of view, this is either a light or a dark comedy but there is certainly welcome humour involved as the pair enters into increasingly absurd conversation.
The third and final section of the evening started life as a radio play and is largely epistolary, as a young man, played with somewhat sinister charm by Luke Thallon, vocalises a letter to his mother, who responds.
The man’s narrative consists of lengthy quasi-erotic tales about his current home in its unlikely familial group of inhabitants, observed almost as if by a naturalist rather than a guest.
Jane Horrocks as the mother writes letters that act as non sequiturs, informing her son of the death of his father. Writing into the ether, she becomes increasingly frustrated at his perceived silence.
This mysterious comedy is illuminated by the efforts of these two actors, supported by Rupert Graves, in another story that might as easily be interpreted by a team of psychologists as theatregoers.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher