Thursday, 8 March 2012

Pinter goes East (having been West)

It seems that Scotland is getting a special dose of hot Pinter action this month. It's not enough that Dominic Hill decided to use Betrayal as his manifesto for the Citizens (his first play as artistic director, and the message that he is going to recall the theatre's past glory as a place for new visions of classic scripts was as pointed as a Pinter pause): the Brunton, over in Edinburgh has invited European Arts Company over for a double bill of The Dumb Waiter and The Lover.

Back when I was at school, The Dumb Waiter was a favourite for Advanced Level English. I have no idea why: I wasn't too bad at reading and writing, but Pinter was a closed book to me. These days, there is nothing I love more than a post-match analysis of his dread absurdism: I spent the bus journey back from Hill's Betrayal loudly explaining that the husband had not had loads of affairs, contrary to his claims. In the classroom, I had no idea why the two hit-men were sitting in the basement, or who was sending them messages.

There a few directions I could go here: one is to wonder why my teachers thought that two Shakespeare plays and one Pinter was representative enough of drama's history. Another is to point out that reading plays - as opposed to watching them - completely misses the point and is a bloody strange thing to have on the curriculum in the first place. However, I am content to accept that the purpose was just to make sure that those students who might have an inclination to enjoy theatre were quickly disabused of the notion, by the plodding pace of classroom analysis and the joyless antidote in The Spark Notes

The Dumb Waiter is one of Pinter's earlier works - it might have inspired In Bruges, but it owes a fair whack to Beckett. Only his pair of alienated loners have got guns and where Godot was silent, their mysterious master whistles down a tube at them.

The Lover is less of a menacing comedy and more of an offbeat episode from Everything you Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask. Any more details, and I am ruining the plot.

The Dumb Waiter & The Lover will be at Brunton Theatre on Tuesday 27 March. 

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