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LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp London Review
by Lizzie Loveridge
In 2002 director Christopher Morahan and the author Kerry Lee Crabbe asked Pinter for permission to work on the novel of The Dwarfs, which Pinter had revised in 1989, in order to adapt it for the stage. So after developing it at the National Theatre Studio and filming it for the BBC4 TV Pinter special, this version of The Dwarfs has its world premiere at the Tricycle Kilburn.
Is this a Pinter play? No, not at all. What does it lack? The ambiguity, the economy and precision of Pinter's words, the menace of his characters and those passages of imagination and incongruity when a character goes off at an angle. What we have instead is a play about three men who, like Pinter, went to school together in Hackney. Each one of them bears some resemblance to Pinter. Len Weinstein (Mark Rice-Oxley) writes. Len is the mathematician, the geeky one, who plays the recorder, knows the bus timetables off by heart and whose writing contains references to the imaginary dwarfs of the title. Pete (Jamie Lee) is of Portuguese descent, as is Harold Pinter, but Pete works in one of the East End's traditional industries, clothing. Mark (Ben Caplan) like Pinter is an actor. The new character is Pete's girlfriend, Virginia (Daisy Haggard) the teacher, maybe based on Pinter's first wife Vivien Merchant whom he married in 1956.
The Dwarfs tracks the friendship between the three boys. Pete's relationship with Virginia is past its first burst of passion and into a stage where Pete abuses Virginia. Virginia eventually leaves Pete and takes up with Mark which causes the two men to re-examine what they mean by friendship. It is an early examination of betrayal, the theme of many of Pinter's plays.
One of the problems is the twenty nine scene changes, Pete's flat, Virginia's flat, Victoria Park, Len's home, walking by the River Lea. The designer has done well with a sliding screen to ring the changes but overall one has a lasting impression of too much scene changing, too many chairs and tables and fireplaces moving into position. It must have looked better on the television film in real locations in Hackney.
While the performances are perfectly satisfactory, The Dwarfs did not engage me. The characters did not interest me and I didn't care what happened to them. The programme however has much fascinating biographical detail of Pinter's early life and his friends from their school. Somehow it is more evocative on the written page than this dramatisation. I'm so pleased Pinter gave up novel writing and moved on to plays and screenplays. LINKS to Curtain Up's overview of Harold Pinter's career
Mendes at the Donmar
Peter Ackroyd's History of London: The Biography
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
At This Theater
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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