herald

Monday 11 December 2017

Review: The Caretaker

The Gate Theatre

That Davies character is a real chancer, isn't he? Were it not for young Aston, passing by on one of his late-night strolls, the elderly tramp would have ended up face-down in the gutter after a fight in the local greasy spoon.

Now he's got a place to stay for the night, Aston inviting Davies back to his cramped London flat where they move about old suitcases and various pieces of furniture so as to find a second, dusty mattress. Clearly, Aston isn't used to having company. But his brother Mick will call round soon.

You've probably seen the posters. The folks behind this new production of Harold Pinter's The Caretaker (originally staged in 1960) haven't exactly gone out of their way to advertise the so-called classic as a comedy. Probably because it isn't. Instead, it's a paced and, occasionally, absurd tragedy with sharp comedic elements scattered throughout.

Actually, what we're dealing with here is a theatrical display that moves so damn slow it threatens to run all the way into next week.

Indeed, Pinter's dialogue (all repeated phrases, broken speeches and mundane rants) goes on a bit. For a while there, nothing happens. Two brothers and a tramp - one has had to deal with a lifetime of complications as a result of unnecessary electric shock therapy; another fancies himself as a gangster.

The tramp, who "stinks from arsehole to breakfast time", is asked be caretaker at the house. Eventually, he comes between the brothers. Sort of. It sounds more eventful than it actually is, and it certainly looks the part, but patience is required.

Michael Feast is brilliant as Davies. There may be three men on that stage, but Feast gets all the best speeches and punch-lines.

Garrett Lombard makes for a reasonably convincing bully, and a surprisingly restrained Marty Rea is a revelation as Aston, the gentle giant who has long given up hope of a normal life. Three commendable performances in one decidedly over-rated play. Doesn't seem fair, that.

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Until March 21 HHHII

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