Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Old Times

Harold Pinter Theatre, 25 February 2013
The evocative opening of this production. From here.

The overdetermined love triangle gets a near-ideal production, only confiorming its weaknesses.

This interesting production downplayed or removed themes I associate with Harold Pinter’s dramas, while retaining his style. I didn’t notice much violence, hinted or otherwise, nor was there a sense of inarticulation or struggling to communicate.

Nonetheless, it retained his distinctive brand of Beckett-influenced realism. I have a fairly low opinion of his variations on relationships – he strains in trying to imply the deeper significances of Beckett, while failing to deliver anything particularly compelling to watch on stage. 

Here, for example, exploring the triangular relationship between a straight couple and the woman's long-time friend, he covers the power relations between lovers, friends, and men/women while throwing in some class (or at least income) differences.  

Perhaps the strongest aspect of the drama is its revealing that we don’t necessarily escape regrets over decisions we take, even if we ourselves don’t happen to regret them. I think the implication is that someone else – our lover – might end up regretting the perceived cost of our decision, and then the harm is done.

I haven't yet named the characters, simply because the massive weakness here is that I don’t believe in these people. Nor does the author give me any reason to care about their lives and choices. At no point did I feel sympathetic.

If anything, I felt that they hadn’t really lost any chance, they were simply convinced they had, and resigned to torpor.

It’s quite possible this is as Pinter intended, as a representation of the boring, cowardly instincts in us all.  

In the programme, unilluminating claims are made for the author’s interest in memory – I don’t see, given his setup, he could have done anything else but describe the characters’ impressions of the past.

I would be surprised if a better production could be possible. Ian Rickson’s direction makes the most of the theatrical nature of Pinter’s art. He sees it is all about the positioning of characters so that we can observe all their reactions as the dialogue progresses. And their relative placement is also part of the overall impact, which holds the attention when the words don’t.

Three beautiful people are in these roles – and with the plausibly handsome Rufus Sewell as Deeley I wondered how Pinter  himself could possibly have taken this role. Kristen Scott-Thomas and Lia Williams are alternating in the roles of Kate and Anna, and I saw them in those roles respectively.

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