Writers: Samuel Beckett &Harold Pinter
Directors: Kate Wasserberg &Titas Halder
Reviewer: Jacqui Onions
Cardiff’s pub theatre, The Other Room, kick off their Insomnia Season, with a double bill of plays about love, jealousy, unrequited feelings and relationships. Kate Wasserberg, artistic director of The Other Room, says that the aim of the season is to give, “that sense of a racing, disturbed mind.” Play by Samuel Beckett and Silence by Harold Pinter are the perfect choices to open this season and create that exact sense, with both plays opening up the innermost thoughts and feelings of the characters to the audience.
Beckett’s Play is all about the words. The trio of lovers featured in this play are presented up to their necks in urns, in a wonderful design by Amy Jane Cook. There can be no body language to aid our lovers in portraying their side of the story to the audience. Aside from the occasional yet hugely expressive facial gesture, it is purely in the voice. The characters never interact with each other, their urns facing them directly towards the audience. The play is essentially three monologues, with each character telling the story of their love triangle from their own perspective, but broken up so that the action moves from person to person, aided by a single spotlight following the narrative (in a lighting design by Katy Morison), so that the story is presented chronologically. The dialogue is delivered at high-speed and seemingly monotone at first, but as the audience tune into this rapid delivery, you soon pick up on a whole range of emotions as each character tells their tale.
The piece is played through twice and it is audibly noticeable how the audience pick up on very different aspects of Play the second time they hear it compared to the first. First time around it is the humour that stands out, and there is plenty of it to be found in this excellent delivery by the cast, but as the narrative is played out for a second, seemingly identical time, there are less laugh out loud moments as the watcher tunes in more to the emotions of the characters. Presented with the husband, the wife and the mistress, this brilliant cast made up of Matthew Bulgo, Peta Cornish and Victoria John do not direct the audience to champion any one character, instead you feel for each of them and what they have been through.
Play is an intricate piece and the many facets and subtleties make it quite a feat to pull off well, so hats off to the cast and director Wasserberg on delivering. It is something different and the high-speed delivery might be a little off-putting for some but it is well worth taking the risk on paying a visit.
Pinter’s Silence is an excellent fit with Play to turn this double bill into an evening of thought-provoking theatre. It is surprising, then, that this is the first time that these two plays have been presented together.
Silence once again presents us with a trio of lovers telling their story to the audience. Once again the characters do not speak with each other, but this is more a series of near misses – people never quite managing to connect – rather than pointedly addressing the audience. In contrast to Play, this feel is created not only through Pinter’s beautiful words but in the way the characters move around each other in the confined stage space of The Other Room, under the direction of Titas Halder and within another strong design from Cook.
The timelines of Silence are more blurred, opening up the racing thoughts and feelings of each of the characters to be heard and seen by the audience. Once again a strong cast, composed of Bulgo (Ramsey), Cornish (Ellen) and joined by Neal McWilliams (Bates), take you through a range of emotions and ensure that the audience can relate to all of the characters and what they are feeling in some way.
Although there are many funny moments, this is not light-hearted theatre about love and relationships. It is thought-provoking, out of the ordinary and a strong start to The Other Room’s Insomnia Season.
Runs until 5February 2016 | Image: Contributed