A Slight Ache and The Lover

Harold Pinter
European Arts Company
Salisbury Playhouse and touring
(2006)

Edward Latham in A Slight Ache

Comparisons, said the bard, are oderous. And I am not one to spurn a good maxim - especially when it has such a pedigree.

Therefor, I hesitate to take issue with Jonathan Kemp'sproduction of Harold Pinter's double bill, A Slight Ache and The Lover for European Arts Company at Salisbury Arts Centre at the weekend.

My dilemma arises from a vivid recollection of a late '50s performance in the original production of A Slight Ache by the late Maurice Denham. Pinter's lines, whatever one thinks of the story, always sound as though they appeared on the page without effort and the veteran actor - he was a veteran, it seemed, throughout my lifetime- delivers them as though he had written them himself. No overstatement, no exaggeration, just the lines emerging as though they had just occurred to him.

No disrespect to Edward Latham whose performance as John may have delighted everyone else in the house. Yet for me there was so much intensity that I began to fear for him. Was "the slight ache" behind his eye a prescient of something much more serious?

Actually, no, for I remembered Denham had completed the play in good health - and many, many more for years after!

It's no use, I concluded, proclaiming Pinter unless one is able to do so with the same irritating nonchalance with which the master writes it. Even co-star Miriam Cooper, a nicely plain wife, Flora, was beginning to seem edgy.

Quite unlike the same actor as the provocative Sarah in The Lover. Only a ten minute interval elapsed between the plays yet they were worlds apart.

Cooper, this time partnered by John O'Connor, a taciturn matchseller in the first play, cooed and teased her lover who seems to have excited her so much more in his part-time persona as lover than he did in real life as her part time husband.

It's all very suggestive, not least the undressing behind a splendidly translucent screen. What bored married couples make of it all is a matter for them. Personally, I had no idea Harold Pinter had done to much to enliven suburbia.

Small wonder they gave him the Nobel Prize for Literature. Design is by Kate McDermott

The two plays may be seen at Stowe School (Monday 13th), Old Town Hall Hemmel Hempstead (Tuesday 14th), Millfield AC, London (Wednesday 15th), West Wing AC, Slough (Thursday 16th, Rivershouse Barn, Walton-on-Thames, (Fri 17th)), Sundail, Cirencester (Fri 18th), Phoenix, Leicester (Tue 21st), Corn Exch, Maidstone (Wed 22), Gate, Cardiff (Thur 23rd ), St Donat's, Vale of Glamorgan (Fri 24th), Melville, Abergaveny (Sat 25th), Wrexham Studio (Mon 27th), Brewhouse, Burton on Trent (Tues 28th), Terry O'Toole Th, Lincs Wed 29th), Rose Th, Ormskirk (Thurs 30th) and Arena, Wolverhampton (Fri 31st).

Reviewer: Kevin Catchpole