When he launched his Pinter at the Pinter season, director Jamie Lloyd said he hoped theatregoers would experience something akin collecting vinyl: as they flicked through the playwright’s back catalogue they might stumble across some forgotten gems among the classics.
It’s a good analogy. I like to think of the 11 one-act plays that make up the third section of this Pinter season as tracks on a particularly eclectic LP.
Side One opens with a substantial piece, Landscape, in which Tamsin Greig and Keith Allen play a married couple who seem to be speaking to each other but remain forever disconnected.
I’m used to seeing Greig on stage in more comedic roles, but here she’s pushing the button marked heartbreak. Seated, her voice amplified by a microphone, she describes being on a beach and drawing two figures – “close but not touching” – in the sand. It’s a haunting metaphor for this couple lost in their own narratives.
If that sounds heavy going, there are laughs to be had in some of the shorter works that follow.
I particularly liked God’s District, in which Meera Syal plays a preacher “saving souls” in Putney, while Lee Evans closes the first half with Monologue, an involving piece in which he talks to a jacket hanging on a chair.
There are more delights on Side Two: Evans shines in the hilarious factory-set sketch Trouble in the Works. He even seems to corpse at one point amid the verbal gymnastics.
Tamsin Greig and Keith Allen are back for the closer, A Kind of Alaska. Greig plays Deborah, a woman who has emerged from a coma after 29 years but still thinks she’s 16, while Allen is the doctor who has to break the news that the world she knew has changed utterly. Pinter twists the emotion control up a notch with the arrival of Deborah’s now grown-up sister (Syal).
Not always an easy listen, this is an album worth repeated plays.