Victoria Station / One for the Road
A Print Room and Young Vic co-production
The Print Room
"Where are you?" is the question; the answer is that it doesn't matter. In the first moment of Victoria Station, the ten-minute, darkly comic opening of this Harold Pinter double bill, we see an increasingly angry mini-cab controller (Keith Dunphy) attempting to contact car 247 and direct its driver (Kevin Doyle) to a job.
The driver meanwhile, can tell neither where he is, or it seems, when he is. He thinks he has a passenger, he thinks he has a wife, or a daughter or possibly both, but nothing is certain, everything is open to debate.
The two men on the stage raise more questions than they answer, but it seems what is important is that the audience are watching this play now, in the present and that what takes place in the short play that is to follow is also taking place now. Not just on this stage, for this audience, but on this planet, in any country where people abuse the rights of others in the name of political or religious belief.
One for the Road sees a man (Keith Dunphy) being interrogated, but rather than being forced to answer questions, he sits in tortured silence, the victim of his captor's (Kevin Doyle) verbal assault. First the interrogator states that his prisoner's wife is very attractive, before exclaiming that he loves the death of others and apologising for his men "pissing" in his prisoner's house.
As the scenes change, the man's wife (Anna Hewson) is interrogated, as is his son (Thomas Capodici), whilst there are strong allusions to the serious sexual and physical abuse that is taking place in-between what is seen.
The set at the Print Room is functional, and symbolic. What is a desk in One for the Road doubles as the car in Victoria Station, whilst two stand-alone lanterns change from car headlights to become tools of interrogation. The plays ask not to be considered literally and this production puts the emphasis on the ability of the audience to decide for themselves what is significant about what they see.
The performances are uniformly strong, and give the characters a depth that makes them more than just the pawns in a political demonstration. Kevin Doyle's interrogator is a sinister and genuinely repulsive man, nonchalant about the pain he inflicts on others and content with his actions. The mood is taut and uncomfortable, with Jeff James' direction creating some moments that are truly uncomfortable to watch, even if the piece never quite reaches its terrifying potential.
This double bill is at times captivating and certainly worthy of praise. It is a very intelligently chosen revival of this specific pairing of Pinter's works, where one provides a frame for the other. One for the Road especially seems very topical given the acts of violence and torture carried out in the regimes of recent dictators. We are asked specifically to wonder what our role in this action is, and whether it can ever be right to simply sit and watch.
"One for the Road/Victoria Station" continues to play at The Print Room until 1st October 2011, before transferring to The Young Vic from 6th to 15th October, 2011.
Reviewer: Alisdair Hinton