Skip to main content

No Man's Land- Cardiff

Pinter plays can be a frustrating experience, the infamous pauses, the obtuse writing, it can be a fascinating evening but also a frustrating one if executed poorly. Of course there was no real fear of poor execution from two masters of the stage in Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan. Their double act, supported by fine work from Owen Teale and Damien Molony lifts this more obscure Pinter into something accessible and enjoyable for even the most Pinter-wary. 

It is an atmospheric production, with projections of trees reaching beyond the imposing living room set, and a soundscape of birdsong. Stephen Brimson Lewis through his set design gives an imposing presence to the house that Patrick Stewart's Hirst inhabits. With high walled rooms and huge windows that are left curtained for much of the time, to the wing backed armchairs and hard wooden seats, Hirst's world is drawn around him. The costumes too, also by Brimson Lewis, serve to create this particular slice of the world. Stewart clad in sharp pinstripe suits in contrast to McKellan's Spooner, whose baggy suit has seen better days, his flat cap and tennis shoes likewise. Meanwhile Foster (Molony) and Briggs (Teale) sport a fetching line in extreme 70s suits. And with their outfits a particular corner of England is created. 

The costuming lends itself to the theme of nostalgia, the harking back to something now missing for both characters, for different reasons. Combining nostalgia with Cricket-both main characters are named for famous cricketers-ties with Pinter's own feelings linking cricket to a time now lost. And this is something both characters are searching for, as is the younger Foster, who years for his earlier youth spent travelling in Asia, showing nostalgia is not only the preserve of the older generation. There is a wistfulness about the play, and the liminal space it seems to occupy between night and day seems to add to this. 

The performances are, as you would expect, a masterclass of acting and stagecraft. While inhabiting their own roles pitch perfectly, there is another level to this performance brought by the relationship between McKellan and Stewart. Playing off one another perfectly, and with performances so in sync the work could have been written for them, there is also a sense of real joy in the work that seems to undercut their performances. Individually they bring fascinating performances, McKellan's Spooner is a loquacious and laconic poet, with a real air of vulnerability and confusion as he attempts to settle into his companion's home. Stewart's Hirst hides a different vulnerability behind a harder shell, and he is somewhat darker, harder to read. Together they have some joyously funny and touching moments in which both their skills as actors, and their relationship as actors (and friends) lifts to another level. It would be easy for Teale and Molony to be lost next to these two acting greats, but each holds their own and makes as strong an impression as the leading pair. An amusing and intriguing pair of sidekicks to Hirst, much is left unknown about the two employees who are brought to life with both comic timing and unanswered questions about where exactly they fit in.

There are no answers, as you'd expect from Pinter. Instead we're left with various questions: What is actually going on? what does the audience think is going on? what do the character’s think is going on? what does the playwright think is going on? ultimately it doesn't matter if these match up, what matters is asking these questions. In the case of this performance, having reached them through a masterclass of stagecraft. 

No Man's Land is at the New Theatre Cardiff until Saturday 3rd September:'s-on/no-man's-land/

And on tour nationally details here:


Popular posts from this blog

Theatre Fangirls (here we go again)

There's some arguments that come around and you think 'really? we're still talking about this?' but also you're not really surprised.

So when it was annoucned Tom Hiddleston was teaming up with Kenneth Brannagh for a production of Hamlet, it was inevitable that the cries of  'Silly fangirls' began. Once again we're confronted with comments that girls 'Only want to see it because he's in it' and 'Aren't interested in the play'.

And because I am a woman, therefore incapable of thinking of him other than in terms of his he above with a cat looking cute.

But just like Mr H there is both petting a cat, reading a newspaper and looking brooding, I'd like to point out that it's entierly possible to be interested in more than one aspect of a thing at the same time. And secondly I say so what the audience is just there to look at his cheekbones?

I don't have a horse in this race. I think Hiddles is a damn good ac…

Why Elliott & Harper is the company I've been waiting for

I can never resist a good (bad) pun in a title. As the first production from Elliott & Harper opens its doors for previews tonight, it’s worth pausing to think what this new production company means and why indeed we need more like it. Something of a ‘power house’ company formed of Marianne Elliott and Chris Harper. Both coming from the National Theatre- as Director and Producer respectively- there’s a real understanding of both the craft of theatre and the audiences that do- and don’t- come to it there. And theatre made by and produced by theatre people, in the commercial realm. That’s potentially very exciting.

Firstly, the act of two theatre people who really love theatre, really understand theatre both from an audience point of view and an artistic point of view. Secondly, one of the UK’s best directors striking out on her own to make theatre on her own terms. Thirdly, and you bet it’s an important factor, a woman artistic director. It’s all exciting, and has the potential, …

Holding the Man (some thoughts, not a review)

This isn't a 'review' because I saw this too close to the end of the run, but some plays make you want to put pen to paper regardless. It's also not a review, as this is filled with the kind of personal anecdotal nonsense that people tell me doesn't belong in my blog.

Well screw that, this is my blog, and for this one I'm writing it how I'd like.

A little background. For anyone who doesn't know me, I wrote my PhD in what essentially translates to 'Plays about AIDS'. There's a far more sophisticated description. But for the purposes of today, that about covers it. For anyone who wants more of that nonsense, my side blog is here

I started my PhD in September 2010. In June 2010 (June 21st, I looked it up. Yes I keep a list) I saw 'Holding the Man' for the first time. I actually had no idea what it was about going in, I was actually just a bit obsessed with Simon Burke at the time so booked to see him (what of it?). And so by accident …