‘A Promising Start’
Peridot Productions in their first production, under the direction of Ebony Chamberlain-King, bring us Harold Pinter’s one-act play, The Dumb Waiter, which is considered to be one of his best early plays.
Jess (Katie Hargreaves) and Ben (Michael Wolf) are hit men who are holed-up in a dingy basement kitchen, waiting to be sent out on their next job. Even from before the start of the play it is clear that Ben is the more senior of the two as they lie on their respective beds – Ben reading the newspaper, Jess seemingly asleep.
The scenes capture the uneasy frustration between them as they wait for instruction on their next victim and the contrast in their characters is more bleakly observed: Jess is the ‘little girl lost’, clearly unhappy in her work and more at home with the comfort of a cup of tea and an Eccles cake. Ben on the other hand is more edgy and with an inside line, apparently, to the unknown boss, and very clearly a man happy to do as he is told.
There are elements of the absurd: as they furiously debate a newspaper article about an eight-year old child having killed a cat, it is easy to forget that they lie in wait to bump off another human being.
Then the dumbwaiter slams down from the floor above.
For those of you unfamiliar with a dumbwaiter, it is a small elevator used to bring food up to a restaurant and take dirty dishes back down, and given the separation of floors, they were often accompanied by a speaking tube so that waiters could talk to the chefs and vice-versa.
When they open it up to find a food order inside, they are somewhat bemused and send some foodstuffs back up. They then begin to receive more orders, changing from traditional English dishes to more foreign, exotic ones. As the orders continue to roll, there is a physical reaction between them as the tension fizzes. Although Pinter cleverly hints within the script where this might be going, it is nigh on impossible to anticipate the surprisingly shocking outcome that lies in store – much testament to a piece of writing from over sixty years ago.
There are strong, credible performances from both Hargreaves and Wolf in this psychological drama, but, they are somewhat let down by the staging. I understand this was the first time they had been in the venue which is a shame because it offers a split-level stage that can add to any production if used in the right way. Unfortunately, tonight’s set up meant that much of Hargreaves performance was on the lower level and out of view of most of the audience, and for a play which relies much upon the seen and unsaid, many of the audience were too often out of the picture. I hope that they can get this adjusted for the next two performances because certainly their use of off-stage action and sound effects was very cleverly put together.
Peridot Productions is made up of a group of theatre and performing arts enthusiasts, including many current LIPA students. This is their first production. Further details https://www.facebook.com/PeridotProduction/
The Casa Bar and Venue at 29 Hope Street is at the heart of the University/Theatre district. Further details available at http://www.initiativefactory.org/
The Dumb Waiter continues its run at The Casa on 23rd and 24th January at 7.30pm. Tickets are £5 and available to order via https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/215105 or on the door.
Reviewer: Mark Davoren
Reviewed: 22nd January 2018