Writer: Harold Pinter
Director: Jamie Glover
Reviewer: Simon Topping
Jamie Glover’s fabulous revival shocks, stuns and makes the Brighton audience laugh in equal measure in this bleakly funny, other worldly, working class fairy tale.
Max (Keith Allen) is a crumbling patriarch, attempting to hold court from his armchair. No one is listening to him. He shares the house with his brother Sam (Ian Bartholomew) and two sons, a psychopathic pimp, Lenny (Mathew Horne) and gormless boxing wannabe Joey (Geoffrey Lumb). To say Max gets no respect from the other men in his household is an understatement; Lenny is actively hostile and Joey can’t think of anything else but his boxing. It’s an atmosphere bristling with menace from the start.
Adding to this toxic mix comes Teddy (Sam Alexander), Max’s eldest son, who has managed to escape the clutches of his family and found success in America as a Professor of Philosophy. With him, as they sneak back into his childhood home, is his rather aloof wife, Ruth (Shanaya Rafaat).
Liz Ascroft’s amazing set decked with mid twentieth century furniture and a mesmeric flocked wallpaper that seems to reach to the sky, draws the viewer in, as if in a dream, or more aptly, as events unfold, a supernatural nightmare.
The constantly changing mood of Max and his son Lenny unnerves the audience and when Lenny asks Ruth if he can “hold her hand” palpitations can be felt in the room.
Horne exudes Lenny’s menace well and the whole cast shine in this piece. Allen as the barking ex-butcher captures the characters fading grip on control expertly and is great to watch as he becomes increasingly undone by the presence of a woman in his home.
The atmospheric switches between scenes bring further disquiet to proceedings and while the audience are finding the dark humour funny there is a feeling of foreboding at every turn.
Alexander’s buttoned up performance as Teddy is a darkly comic wonder. His movement, pauses and verbal sparring with Horne are a delight. Lumb, as Joey garners the biggest laughs of the night. He plays the role with an excellent level of stupidity and is a real treat as a comedy idiot.
Rafaat brings a chilling alien-like presence to the piece, as Ruth systematically begins to take apart her husband’s family and discards her partner. The balance of power shifts and as the play comes to a disturbing close, none of the men are left unaffected.
Runs till 7th May