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A CurtainUp Review
The Caretaker

Jabbering? Me? Maybe it was the blacks down the hall.— Davies
The Caretaker
Jonathan Pryce as Davies
If squalor could be called picture perfect, then Eileen Dissí set design for the Theatre Royal Bathís premiere of Harold Pinterís 1960 classic, The Caretaker, is just that. With its dull sky lighting, monotone shading, stacks of newspapers, cast iron beds, and a pail that catches ceiling leaks, the set appears from afar as a painting. Itís a railroad room and sound designer Tom Lishman starts the drone of trains on one side of the theater and moves them to the other, as if we were listening through stereo speakers.
The squalid room is occupied by a young man, Aston (Alan Cox), whose flat affect and easy going nature belie a stoic determination. They also present a too-tempting chance for manipulation by Davies (Jonathan Pryce), a chronically down-on-his-luck vagabond who is taken in by Aston and who is pretty much offered the run of the place. With more than a streak of vanity, Davies vehemently denies that he jabbers in his sleep or that he smells; he tries mightily to prove that beggars can be choosers: he rejects a pair of shoes Aston gives him and demands to switch beds.
Pryce as Davies is a sly and masterful comedian. He flashes hints of real malice as he pits Aston against the unhinged, pipe-dreaming Mick (Alex Hassell), Astonís brother and the houseís owner. Davies slowly insinuates himself into both Astonís physical and mental spaces; he goes for the jugular after Aston reveals a poignant secret about his mental health.

Aston appears to be a pushover but ultimately displays a passive fortitude that neither Mick nor Davies can match. Aston rejects what he could have been in Mick and the pathetic pauper he could become in Davies (he and Davies share a similar headache malady), and sets small — yet for his compromised mental state — challenging goals for himself: taking a walk in the neighborhood, fixing a toaster plug, and building a shed in the backyard. In the end, Aston understands human nature better than either of the others, and harshly preserves his own survival.
The three great actors are a formidable trinity and make this production, crisply directed by Christopher Morahan, an absolute must-see.

For more about Harold Pinter and links to other Pinter productions we've reviewed, see Curtainup'sHarold Pinter Backgrounder.

The Caretaker
By Harold Pinter
Directed by Christopher Morahan
Cast: Jonathan Price (Davies), Alex Hassell (Mick), Alan Cox (Aston)
Set Design: Eileen Diss
Costume Design: Dany Everett
Lighting Design: Colin Grenfell
Sound Design: Tom Lishman
Fight Direction: Bret Yount
Assistant Director: Will Wrightson
Producer: Danny Moar for Theatre Royal Bath
Production Manager: Sean Pritchard
Casting: Siobhan Bracke
General Management, Tour Marketing and Press: CAPA
Production Stage Manager: John C. McNamara
Company Manager: Terence Dale
Running Time: Two hours and twenty minutes, including one intermission
Culture Project , Brooklyn Academy of Music, Harvey Theater, www.bam.org
From May 3, 2012 Ė June 16, 2012; opening May 3, 2012
Performance schedule : May 3-5, 8-12, 15-19, 22-26 & 29-31; June 1, 2, 5-9 & 12-16, 2012 @ 7:30 p.m.; May 6, 13, 20 & 27; June 3, 10 & 17 @ 3 p.m.; May 12, 19 & 26; June 2, 19 & 16 @ 2 p.m.
Reviewed by William Coyle, based on the May 8, 2012 performance

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