Pinter’s pauses and humour prevail

Harold Pinter perfection came to Lincoln this week in the form of “The Caretaker”. The night was set to thrill its audience and on the whole, it did not disappoint. From the London Classic Theatre (LCT) company, the dark tale of three men stuck in an attic and in mind provoked laughter and silence from the LPAC audience.


Harold Pinter's "The Caretaker" showcased at Lincoln's LPAC, celebrating 10 years in business for the London Classic Theatre company. Photo: Sheila Burnett

Upon entering the auditorium, the set was an exceptional piece of work displaying an attic full of trinkets and objects, creating the image readers would have when reading the play. Initially it looked like organised mess rather than clutter, but once the play’s action started a disordered stage was made.

The fantastic thing about “The Caretaker” is that not only can it be enjoyed simply as a comedy, but also as an exploration of how the human psyche works when put into difficult situations. The LCT company perfected this with a typical Pinteresque performance – the long pauses, the trivial speech, and the constant notion of threat – and had the audience both laughing aloud and holding their breath throughout the evening.

Nicholas Gasson, who played the vulgar tramp Davies, mastered the character’s mannerisms to give a compelling performance. He brilliantly portrayed Davies’ ignorance and his facial expressions were priceless. The character’s utter disregard for anyone else and his willingness to flatter whoever he needs to in order to keep sheltered, was frustrating, pitiful, and hilarious to watch.

In a recent interview with The Linc, the play’s artistic director Michael Cabot said: “It’s almost like Davies becomes the two brothers’ play thing”, and this was represented very well through strong character-interaction. Richard Stemp, who played the vulnerable Aston, was convincing enough to provoke sympathy, but did come across as wooden at points which made some lines less convincing.

One of the most memorable parts of the play was Aston’s monologue in which he reveals his experience of electro-shock therapy. The lighting gradually shrank to cover just Stemp’s face, almost representing his world closing in on him. Though the atmosphere did change shockingly from being comedy-orientated up until then, Stemp’s delivery could have been more powerful to emphasise the contrast, not only of the genres, but also between the three personalities.

Nicholas Gadd, who played the threatening Mick, seemed to get more into character as the play developed. His tormenting of Davies, alongside his own struggle to relate to his own brother, made the character’s tough facade endearing. His turbulent relationship with Davies and awkward one with Aston showed the complex way in which the human mind works when pragmatic motives conflict with personal feelings.

One of the most effective features of the performance was the lighting which created an ominous atmosphere. Never at full beam, the dim light covered different parts of the stage in relation to the action. This created some real suspense which boded perfectly with the increasing tension between the three characters’ relationships.

All the components of making a Pinter-play special were there, and though the tense moments could have been made more unbearable, the delivery of Pinter’s language and creating such suspense in a single set was handled with excellence.

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