Shomit Dutta
Original Theatre Company
Theatre Royal Bath

Listing details and ticket info...

Stephen Tompkinson as Samuel Beckett and Andrew Lancel as Harold Pinter in Stumped Credit: Tristram Kenton
Stephen Tompkinson as Samuel Beckett and Andrew Lancel as Harold Pinter in Stumped Credit: Michael Wharley

“A hypothetical meeting of two masters” is how director Guy Unsworth sums up this new play by Shomit Dutta. Stumped sees two of the 20th century’s best-known playwrights, Samuel Beckett (Stephen Tompkinson) and Harold Pinter (Andrew Lancel), pad up, stroll to the crease and provide an innings of insight into their relationship.

Produced by the Original Theatre Company, the play had its one-of-a-kind première at Lord’s Cricket Ground in September 2022. It won’t come as a surprise that this was the first time a play had done so at the Home of Cricket. Dutta seems a fitting scribe of such a story—he is a writer, translator and teacher of Latin and Greek who also reviews books on cricket and the classics. Since its première, it has been lengthened by around 20 minutes

Beckett, the Dublin-born writer, is the only Nobel prize winner to play first-class cricket—although surely the field of potential candidates for this unique accomplishment is not particularly competitive. Pinter himself was close to achieving such a feat.

The hypothetical nature sees Pinter and Beckett next to the crease, agitating over the reality of facing the bowlers. Dutta casts Pinter in Beckett’s shadow, and it’s true the pair shared letters (one of which features in the British Library) and a somewhat friendly rivalry. He also wanted them to resemble their own creations as much as their own personalities. The premise is appealing; two of the greatest playwrights intertwined with their love of cricket is a decent canvas to begin.

It is smartly designed by David Woodhead with the set brass-framed, featuring a minimalistic look of a scoreboard, bench, cricket bats and a traditional cricket pavilion framed on the rear wall.

While the performances are a joy to watch, the substance of the story does feel undercooked. Maybe the combination of the topics works against its favour: a niche of both theatre and cricket-loving patrons. Despite this reviewer fitting into such a demographic, the run-time might have been best left at the original 55-minute mark. It excels in the back-and-forth dialogue between the two writers but feels a little hollow when it abandons this approach. Nevertheless, like England’s finest cricketers Joe Root and Ben Stokes, Tompkinson and Lancel combine delightfully between the crease and maximise the material.

For the most part, Stumped is a no-frills production which provides an honest insight into two of the world’s most famous playwrights of the last century but fails to slog it over the boundary rope. It gives it a good go, and one feels there is still potential for this to become a fully fledged delight, but Stumped misses out on its century.

Stumped is now showing at Theatre Royal Bath until Saturday 27 May and visits both Cambridge Arts Theatre (5–10 June) and Hampstead Theatre (16–22 June) next month.

Reviewer: Jacob Newbury

*Some links, including Amazon,,, ATG Tickets, LOVEtheatre, BTG Tickets, Ticketmaster, LW Theatres and QuayTickets, are affiliate links for which BTG may earn a small fee at no extra cost to the purchaser.

Are you sure?