Sunday, 14 August 2016

No Man's Land, Lyceum Theatre Sheffield, 13/8/16

This was the first Pinter I have seen, and on the basis of it I'm not sure I 'get' Pinter. There isn't a narrative as such, more an exercise in words. It centres around the exchanges between two gentlemen, Hirst and Spooner, one drunken evening and the following morning, with two other characters, Foster and Briggs, joining the fray. The nature of the characters relationships switches, the audience is constantly slightly wrong footed, just when you think you have a sense of what is going on, another shift occurs and you are as confused as when you started. It does feel at times like you are in some kind of disjointed, slightly trippy dream. The only option is to just go with it and enjoy the dialogue with its intriguing wordplay, and appreciate the performances, and boy, what performances they were.

Patrick Stewart as Hirst, and Ian McKellen as Spooner were a joy to watch. They make such clever choices in their portrayals, there is so much detail and craftsmanship in their performance but it looks effortless. They play off each other beautifully, there are plenty of comedic moments, especially from McKellen, never overplayed, perfectly judged. Both of them are a masterclass in what makes a great actor. I've seen Stewart on stage before in Hamlet, but this was the first time I have seen McKellen in the theatre and the combination of the two of them was an absolute treat.

Damien Moloney as Foster, and Owen Teale as Briggs ably completed the cast, albeit their parts were relatively small and even more infuriatingly complex which didn't give them as much opportunity to shine as the leads. 

If you are going to see this play, which is on a short tour before it's London run, it's definitely worth shelling out for the programme, it contains some really interesting features, and the most delightful cast notes I have seen in a long time.

All in all, I'm not sure I would rush to seek out Pinter again, but I do acknowledge the fascinating detail of the dialogue and the clever interactions. Maybe it's a mindset thing and I need to work on my Pinter appreciation more. But watching two exemplary classical actors deliver such an acting masterclass was a thing of wonder and one I feel very privileged to have experienced.

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