Sunday, 15 March 2009

The Caretaker - Bolton Octagon

The Caretaker by Harold Pinter
Director: Mark Babych
Reviewer: Clare Howdon

‘The Caretaker’ currently playing at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton is one of the last productions to be directed by outgoing Artistic Director Mark Babych and in my opinion one of late playwright Harold Pinter’s most compelling plays.

This piece centres on the lives of two brothers, Mick and Aston and an itinerant, Davies, who Aston introduces into their lives. Through Pinter’s masterful use of repetitive, unfinished dialogue, long silences and flashes of humour and violence, Davies eventually begins to play one brother off against the other. As a consequence all three men are caught in a power struggle as they manoeuvre in a territorial battle of supremacy.

‘The Caretaker’, first performed in the 1960’s, was the first of Pinter's plays to bring him artistic and commercial success as well as national recognition, and it is easy to see why. The depth and perception in Pinter’s writing comfortably puts this play into the modern masterpiece category. Luckily, Mark Babych’s production of this fantastic play doesn’t disappoint. His slick and masterful direction controls the pace and tension well and veers between the comic and tragic elements of the play with ease.

Matthew Rixon, Jeff Hordley and Paul Webster all deliver a master class in acting and control the vocal gymnastics of Pinter’s dialogue with skill and conviction. A particular highlight is the climactic and harrowing monologue by Aston delivered beautifully by Matthew Rixon, in which he recalls the moment he received electro-shock therapy as a potential remedy for his mental illness. The subtle closing in on the lighting throughout the speech, so we are eventually left with just Aston’s traumatised facial features and disturbed thoughts, is a moment of perfectly measured audience voyeurism and discomfort.

Jeff Hordley is also completely convincing as the menacing and mocking Mick and the wealth of Paul Webster’s character acting experience is clearly apparent in his superbly realised portrayal of Davies. A mention should also be given to the stage design by Richard Foxton. The claustrophobic clutter of old newspapers, suitcases and antiques is the perfect setting for this deeply intense play.

This production is undoubtedly a resounding success, and one which, I’m sure, Harold Pinter would have been proud to have his name attached to.
Photos: Ian Tilton
The Caretaker runs at The Octagon Theatre until Sat 28th March 2009
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