Pinter at Trafalgar Studios
This is Pinter at midpoint between the sketch-writer [The Interview making a brief appearance in Act Two here] and the dark dramatist of the sinister and the enigmatic.
Jamie Lloyd has majored on the earlier Pinter, with much black farce after the manner of Orton, a master-class in cross-talk and sticomythia. But the sense of ominous goings-on elsewhere in the building is strong, enhanced by having some of the capacity audience seated on chairs [house clearance a speciality] around the linoleum-floored acting area.
The cast are uniformly impressive. Simon Russell Beale, as Roote, the megalomaniac boss of the mysterious Rest Home, is suitably swivel-eyed, and times his Pinter pauses and laughs to perfection. John Simm's smooth, dry understated assistant is the perfect foil. Excellent work too from Indira Varma as the seductive sex-pot Miss Cutts, John Heffernan as Lush, the lilac-suited, almost insolent underling, and Harry Melling as Lamb, the hapless scapegoat, pathetically grateful for his chance to be a guinea-pig. Eighteen-carat cameos from Clive Rowe as a menial, and Christopher Timothy as the Man from the Ministry sent to oversee regime change, as Simm's Gibbs, sole survivor of a gory massacre, takes the reins.
The awful truth behind the farce is never fully revealed, but the sense of foreboding is heightened by the manic mugging and the virtuosic verbal fireworks.
The 1950s institutional décor triumphantly is recreated in Soutra Gilmour's design. And from our front-row on-stage chair, we are close enough to touch that lilac suit, and to browse the books in the staff social area – top of the pile, appropriately, Kafka's The Castle.