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A CurtainUp London Review
I have seen Hamlet more than twenty times and still find new aspects to enjoy about that play but I am finding that five Caretakers is one too many. Of course Pinter was very prescriptive in both his requirements for the set and his direction which leaves little for new productions to do which is fresh or innovative. So the piles of newspaper, the open sash window, the oddments of mechanical repairs and the dripped marked cans of paint have all been seen before, but maybe not in piles as neatly and tidily stacked as here at the Trafalgar Studios. On the other hand, for those not suffering from a surfeit of Caretakers, this staging o can be recommended.
As the tramp Davies, Pryce has a native Welshman's accent and from the beginning he conveys a sometimes affable man of the road, proving the concept that beggars can be choosers as he checks out Aston's kind offer of accommodation. Naturally, we all cringe when Davies commends the filthy sheet as "good" but Pryce gives Davies a child-like quality as he explores Aston's eccentric possessions. His Davies is a calculating negotiator from the very start so we are not surprised when he betrays the gentle Aston to Mick with a vicious sense of self preservation and remarkable bitchiness. We have seen his anger and irrational hatred of immigrants.
Pryce also lets his tongue loll out and stretch his lower lip maybe running it over the bare gums that give witness to Davies' loss of teeth from a poor diet and an excess of alcohol and the effect is repulsive. Despite there being no alcohol in evidence Pryce sounds like a drunk and uses the false logic of a drunk. However brought down and out, the actor also shows the vulnerability of this old homeless man as he is forced to move on as a result of his own actions. Every so often he will break into an upper class Englishman's accent, refined and incongruous like someone mimicking the tones of the upper classes. This was apart of the impossibility of tying the caretaker down to a particular place or class.
Peter McDonald's Aston has curious but attractive head movements, small jerks and momentary stares as he seems to be processing information like a little bird. This production emphasises the need for friendship that Aston may hope to find in the companionship of the tramp. Aston's long monologue about his abusive treatment in the psychiatric unit s the most moving speech of the play, so when Davies chooses to torment him with the "pincers" jibe this is something that we find most unsympathetic.
Sam Spruell's Mick is unusual and played down, as if he is a more pleasant individual but disappointingly not making the most of the speech which includes the Islington to Dalston street names like taxi driver's London Knowledge. Spruell lurks in the background, initially listening behind a wall of gauze which when the lighting is changed looks solid.
This production falls into the range of the spectrum from malice to comedy. The comedy is not that subtle, with the price paid of less menace to unsettle the appreciative audience.
For a review of the most recent New York revival of The Caretaker with Patrick Stewartgo here.
For The Caretaker with Michael Gambon go here go here.
For The Caretaker with David Bradley go here go here.
For our Harold Pinter backgrounder with links to other reviews of this as well as his other plays go here
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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