Acting a caricature

Years ago I read a Pinter play called The Dumb Waiter. I wanted to take it to festivals but never did anything beyond the reading. I can’t remember why. Even so, it’s a one act play I’ve always liked. Until tonight I’d never seen it performed.

Mirinda is having a week’s study leave so, rather than meeting in town, we travelled up and back together. A rare treat which saw us eating our main meal for lunch. Mirinda called hers Linner but reckoned mine was Blinner because I didn’t have breakfast.

The play was part of a Pinter at the Pinter run of plays. Harold Pinter directed a lot of his works at the old Comedy Theatre in Haymarket and, in honour of the great man, it was renamed The Harold Pinter Theatre in 2011. This run combines two one act plays, A Slight Ache, originally a radio play on the BBC and The Dumb Waiter. It is the seventh season of Pinter and is therefore called Pinter at the Pinter 7.

While I really wanted to see The Dumb Waiter, the main reason we were going was to see Martin Freeman as Gus. We saw him a while ago in the play about the Labour Party which ran backwards and he was excellent (along with Tamsin Greg) so we were really looking forward to it.

In my seat

The first play was A Slight Ache. Originally performed as a radio play it features two real actors and a third character who is never seen or heard. I thought it was excellent though Mirinda wasn’t too sure about it given it was a bit odd.

It wasn’t until I reached the train going home that I was able to read the programme (writing too small, theatre too dark, colours not helpful) and discovered that the woman playing Flora was Gemma Whelan. She plays Yara Greyjoy in Game of Thrones as well as many other things. She’s also in Upstart Crow. And she was excellent in A Slight Ache.

Her accent was extraordinary for a start but her whole character was so well constructed and performed it was perfect. I couldn’t fault her at all. John Heffernan as her husband Edward was also very good. His comic timing was lovely as were his changes in mood.

The only thing I could fault would be the dialogue he delivered while lying on the floor. I have to hope it wasn’t important because I couldn’t hear most of it. I also couldn’t see him very well but that was more to do with the rude man in the fez sitting in front of me. And while he was annoying he wasn’t as bad as the woman with a beehive hairstyle sitting near him.

So we then had the interval and then The Dumb Waiter began. From the off it was obvious that Martin Freeman was going to be superb (he was) but the same could not be said of his partner, Ben played by Danny Dyer. Danny Dyer is known for his soap opera work (Eastenders, Hollyoaks, Casualty, etc) and maybe he’s very good at it. I wouldn’t know as I’ve never seen him in anything other than Have I Got News for You last year. Whatever his talent for performing on the telly, he is not very good on stage.

Everything he did was a caricature. Nothing felt real except for the work that Martin Freeman had to put in. It was almost like watching a live action version of that classic book The Art of Coarse Acting by Martin Green. It was a real shame given there were only two of them in the play.

Still, it was good seeing the play and it was even better seeing Martin Freeman again. He really is one of our best actors at the moment.

Of course the trains were a bit messy getting home but, eventually we made it back to the girls. A lovely night at the theatre though I would have preferred a better actor playing Ben.

And a more respectful audience would have been nice. Apart from the fez wearing chap, the guy sitting next to me taking photos was a real annoyance. Maybe that’s what happens when you put soap actors in real plays.

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