Pensive Pinter

The Lover and A Slight Ache (Now Look Here)

Metro Arts, The Studio

March 8 – 19

Following the success of last year’s production of “The Seagull”, Now Look Here presents two plays by Harold Pinter to take the audience on two very different journeys through the essence of the work of one of last century’s most influential playwrights.

The more light-hearted of the pieces, “The Lover” focuses on the pretence of properness, and fear and jealousy within commitment. While Sarah (Kerith Atkinson) and Richard (Daniel Murphy) appear to be happily married, behind their facade of propriety, lies frank acceptance of infidelity, soon revealed to be a fantasy role play.

The work is filled with the volleys of witty dialogue, punctuated by typical Pinter prolonged pauses afforded by Kate Wild’s indulgently languid pacing, making for a marriage in which both parties are more believable than in their fantasy roles. Atkinson, in particular, is poised in her portrayal of Sarah. Her charismatic presence carries each scene and her comic timing is spot on in banter with Murphy.

lovers.jpgChristine Felmingham‘s pastel lighting hues paint a delicate design picture. Staging is functional, setting the piece in time as much as place, and Penelope Challen’s costumes effectively serve as reflection of the intended era of marital conservatism in which all is not necessarily as it seems. In combination, the elements all serve to paint an appropriate initial portrait of life in Pinter’s pensive world.

Less elaborately staged is the second of the night’s one act plays, “The Slight Ache”, appropriate so given its origins as a radio play. Transferred to the stage play format, however, the work is somewhat unsatisfying, despite the best efforts of the cast.

slight ache

It begins with a conversation between middle-aged Edward (Daniel Murphy) and his wife Flora (Kerith Atkinson) in a country garden over breakfast. Befitting his years as an essayist, Edward is eloquent even in his dithering obsession with ordinary trivialities such as garden plants. But all is not as it seems, with a silent, sinister Matchseller lurking at their garden gate. As the morning morphs into afternoon, Edward becomes increasingly suspicious and Flora urges the stranger into their home for interrogation by her husband.

What follows is a series of increasingly unsettling monologues from Edward, met only with silence from the Matchseller. It is a silence and unresponsiveness filled with assumptions in move towards the play’s final moments when the mysterious Matchseller prophetically trades places with Edward. Clearly there is a metaphor for the taking from amongst the piece’s beautiful writing, however, it is not entirely clear as to what it is. With little visual interest to maintain audience engagement, it is hard work to decipher, in stark contrast to the double-bill’s initial piece.

Atkinson again is skilled in her performance, showing a touching compassion in her one sided conversation of urge for the man to join her inside the house and then upon taking the stranger’s arm to tenderly lead him along. As the mute Matchseller, Zachary Boulton is initially vulnerable and then threatening. When after much silent standing, he eventually takes seat to face the audience, he expresses volumes through only his eyes.

Pinter’s work can be comic or dark, such is the versatility of his drama. In “A Slight Ache” and “The Lover”, Now Look Here presents audiences with both. By once again placing the actor and the playwright at the centre of their work, they have taken audiences into the essence of these classic of the stage and their questions about the complication of life.

Photos c/o – https://www.facebook.com/NowLookHereTheatre

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