Pinter’s Cries and Whispers

Moonlight, Donmar Warehouse, 21 May 2011

This was a strange piece of theatre.

On one part of the stage a kind of English middle-class version of Bergman’s Cries and Whispers was played out: but with sarcasm and needlework rather than rasping and claustrophobia.

Over on the other side, two young men were giving us a passable précis of the London-based scenes from Withnail and I. The eighties feel was accentuated by a scene in which eyeliner was donned to the sound of Love Cats by The Cure. That at least one of them was an actor was hinted at by a quote from Hamlet.

Between them flitted a young woman in white bedwear, looking like she’d escaped from an episode of Twin Peaks. She stared off into space, her gnomic utterances creating a transcendent mood.

The play seemed to create a division between the seriousness of the adult lives, represented by David Bradley’s Andy, an old man on his deathbed, and his patient wife Bel, played by Deborah Findlay, and the silly, inconsequential levity of their sons Jake and Fred (Daniel Mays and Liam Garrigan).

To that extent it seemed to be a comment on maturity and inexperience. Although Lisa Diveney’s ghostly young Bridget, on the other hand, seemed to benefit from a more sympathetic portrayal. Being dead, she became entitled to some credit.

Brief appearances by Ralph (Paul Shelley) and Maria (Carol Royle) provided some context as people close to the couple.

New playwrights are often encouraged to rework their plays so that it no longer becomes possible to ‘hear the writing’.

But with this late Pinter work, a lot of the enjoyment came from the fact that the writing was totally on show.

We relished the jokey exchanges between the young men replete with lists of unrealistic names and exaggerated flourishes of rhetoric. We soaked up the poetry of Bridget’s closing description of a dark house deep in a moonlit forest.

And when David Bradley approached the audience and downed his whisky with the words “Bollocks to the lot of them”, we could only wish him well and consider the very short distance between Pinter’s own life and this charming vignette.

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