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Wondering in Pinter-land

Old Times, Loft Theatre, Leamington, until June 10

In Pinter-land people talk around in circles, thoughts are left unfinished and the atmosphere is charged with vibes of surreality.

For some 60 years the works of Harold Pinter have been hailed as a fourth dimension of literary theatre. Or, in some quarters, dismissed as pretentious claptrap. Whichever way you veer, they are a force to be reckoned with in terms of production and performance, and the list of theatrical giants who have taken them on is formidable, to say the least.

What is immediately clear from director William Wilkinson’s new revival of this 1971 piece is a totality of commitment to the Pinteresque cause. As a three-hander, it focuses on the interweaving relationship between a man and wife and a woman friend from the past, and the potencies and distortions of memory.

The writer leans on sexual imagery and eroticism to suggest the innermost dilemmas of his characters. He doesn’t provide answers - Pinter never does - and revelation is denied in much the same way that Beckett left us waiting for Godot.

However you choose to view this form of theatricality, it puts tremendous pressure on the actors. Here, under Wilkinson’s astute design and direction, they respond with remarkable alacrity to the challenge. Rod Wilkinson’s Deeley taunts, whines and sometimes growls his frustration in a fine portrayal of a man caught in a whirlpool of emotions involving his wife and his lust for her friend.

Again in a recurring Pinter theme, he is the male constantly out-manoeuvred by the females of the species as they hint of a union of their own. Lorna Middleton displays these complexities in the wife with a quietly haunting subtlety. Mary MacDonald, an actress always at her best with forceful drama, is slightly less at ease with the Pinter mood and measured wordplay but nonetheless delivers a sound portrayal of the visiting Anna.

The production, originally scheduled for the smaller space of the Loft studio, has transferred well to the main stage in terms of overall design and will score highly with the Pinter faithful.

Pictured, above, left to right Kate (Lorna Middleton), Deeley (Rod Wilkinson) and Anna (Mary MacDonald).

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