Forty years on, Harold Pinter's first West End success still has both comedy and shadows in abundance, with fine direction and performances.
Patrick Marber directs with an evident love of the play – not veneration, but an intelligent affection for all its various registers, as the derelict Davies insinuates his way into an attic (magnificently dilapidated, in Rob Howell's design) shared by stolid former mental hospital inmate Aston and, on occasion, by his menacing wide-boy brother Mick.
Michael Gambon almost effortlessly dispels all thoughts of Donald Pleasence's hitherto definitive Davies by taking an opposite tack: Gambon's Davies is a great, shambling bear of a man, growling in an accent which is a deceptively thoughtful hybrid of London, Welsh and semi-Gaelic drunkard's slur. As Aston, Douglas Hodge is mesmerisingly still, showing us the huge dam and just suggesting the vast reservoir of emotion behind it. I must confess I have not hitherto rated Rupert Graves as an actor, but his Mick – at once gameful and edgy, like playing with a sharp knife – shows what I have been missing. A remarkable production altogether.
Written for divento.com
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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