Was It Awful for You Too, Darling?; It's Friday! Theatre

By Marmion, Patrick | Daily Mail (London), April 25, 2003 | Go to article overview

Was It Awful for You Too, Darling?; It's Friday! Theatre


Marmion, Patrick, Daily Mail (London)


Byline: PATRICK MARMION

The Dwarfs (Tricycle Theatre)

Verdict: Pinter premier must give us pause *

HAROLD PINTER trainspotters can rejoice: a new play by the master is at hand.

Everyone else can stay at home, assured that they are missing little more than two and a half hours of barely relieved, self-inflicted pain and suffering.

And, just to make matters more complicated still, this latest play from the author of modern classics like The Birthday Party and The Caretaker isn't by Harold Pinter and isn't new.

Although billed as a Pinter world premiere it is, in fact, an adaptation by Kerry Lee Crabbe of Pinter's long forgotten 1956 novel. It's a work which hails from the duffel coat and rationing period of post-war London.

If the play is to be believed, it's a time when most people were suffering from low-level clinical depression. Not only is its title one of the many mysteries it leaves unsolved, it could easily be re-titled Look Back In Anguish.

Following three young men and one woman tramping round Hackney, in some respects it is a Pinter play like no other. It isn't stuck in one location, there aren't many pregnant pauses, its language rattles through an assortment of literary styles and it seems very unsure of its tone.

In other respects it is a Pinter play like every other. It turns in self-defeating circles round matters of no apparent importance, it is written in clipped Michael Cainestyle patois and it ripples with Jewish cockney humour.

Friendship seems to be the central theme of the play, yet all of the characters are far too self-absorbed to have any concept of camaraderie.

As one of the friends, Mark, Ben Caplan is mostly distinguished by the fact that he smokes a pipe.

Mark Rice-Oxley's Len, meanwhile, is a sparky geek who bides his time composing incomprehensible poetry. Last among the male characters, Jamie Lee is saddled with the part of Pete - a man who is an increasingly pompous, misogynistic young bore.

Suffering the greatest misfortune of all as Pete's girlfriend Virginia, Daisy Haggard at least accumulates some complex identity as a sexual sphinx.

Otherwise, the play is littered with lines that the actors, directed by Christopher Morahan, struggle to understand. His cast show little flair for comic timing or Pinter's sense of knife-twisting irony.

Instead, it's all monotone intensity.

However, if all else fails to engage, credit must go to Eileen Diss's design. She re- creates a Fifties spartanism, deftly shifting between scenes presented with simple period furnishings and washed out colours. Meanwhile John Leonard transports the imagination through time and space with a multidirectional sound design.

But as nights out in Kilburn go, this is still the equivalent of giving blood.

Fishing for compliments

Under The Whaleback

(Royal Court Theatre Upstairs)

Verdict: Fishermen from Hull are catch of the day ..... ****

FISHERMEN'S tales make fertile grounds for writers, and Richard Bean is no exception. His play, set in Hull and on the North Sea, trades in maritime legends from the Sixties, Seventies and today.

The major character, who pops up throughout the play, is Cassidy, a Yorkshire lush who models himself on famous cowboy Butch long before anyone ever heard of Paul Newman.

Cassidy's main claim to fame is that he once punched the Archbishop of York ('he had it coming') and that he likes to stick fireworks up his backside ('just for a laff'). …

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