CELEBRATION in a double bill with MONOLOGUE
presented by BAWDS at Corpus Christi Playroom
Reviewed by Julie Petrucci
This was my first visit to Corpus Christi Playroom and it was quite an interesting experience. It was certainly a fitting space for the two short Harold Pinter plays Bawds chose to present there. Some consider Harold Pinter to be Britain’s greatest living playwright. He is certainly one of them anyway. In 2007 Harold Pinter was made an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Leeds at a three-day conference and celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the first performance of his work. On 23 June 2008 he will again be made an honorary Doctor of Letters this time by Cambridge University. One of the playwright's last works before his retirement was the first offering of the evening
CELEBRATION which shows a very different side of Pinter, a more humours side. Pretty profane yet the play provides a lot of laughs. The setting is a fashionable restaurant and Designer Lyn Chatterton did indeed create a corner of a fashionable restaurant. he effect was incredibly realistic and enhanced by Ed Hopkins’ lighting design created such an intimate setting one felt slightly voyeuristic.
In the restaurant, two brothers, formerly from
the East End but now ‘strategy consultants’ are celebrating a wedding
anniversary with their wives, who are sisters.
At the next table, a banker is dining with his wife, formerly his secretary.
Tony Sully (Lambert) gave a very energetic performance both verbally and physically. This was nicely balanced in a beautifully understated portrayal by Richard Purkiss as his brother Matt, making one of his too infrequent appearances on stage. Mandi Cattell and Sandra Birnie as sisters Julia and Prue were absolutely marvellous they were incredibly believable and could well have been sisters in real life. Neil Coates as Russell was excellent and his face and body language as he lost the will to live with the waiter’s continuous interjections was a sight to behold. He certainly had his hands full with wife Suki played by Hannah Smith giving an extremely raunchy interpretation of this character. Many people’s view of filing cabinets will never be the same again. Compliments must go to the restaurant staff Graham Waterhouse as Richard the restaurant manager who managed to cope with the ladies’ wandering hands with great aplomb and Katie Charles, Sonia the waitress, who made much of her on/off role. ashley Edwards was splendid as the most annoying waiter in the world whose grandfather allegedly personally knew everyone from Attila the Hun to Winston Churchill! His interjections were awaited with baited breath and he is to be congratulated on coping with some extremely complicated lists of names.
This was a well handled very enjoyable play complete with what looked and smelled like a delicious meal served and consumed throughout.
MONOLOGUE is one of Pinter’s earlier plays: first shown on BBC Television on 13 April 1973: virtually 35 years to the day (give or take) of Bawds’ production. It is a short play that one would probably need to see more than once in order to fully understand what is going on: it is quite ambiguous. In only about twenty minutes the Man (Chris Hindley) tells us his story as he sits alone talking to an empty chair in which, supposedly, sits his lost friend. What we are given to understand is that both the Man and his friend, a white man, get involved in a relationship with one black woman. At the beginning of the play he talks to his friend casually about his motorbike and invites him to a game of ping pong but as he reflects on the friendship past blurs with present as the memories gather. Chris Hindley did a sterling job as Man moving between the various mood swing seemingly effortlessly, his movement about the acting area economic yet meaningful. However, I felt his costume was at odds with his character. I would have expected him to look more downtrodden given the rather seedy setting and the trimming of the frayed shirt collar. An excellently rounded performance nevertheless.
Not particularly being a Pinter fan I found this an unexpectedly interesting and enjoyable evening. Richard Peoples is to be complimented on not just his direction but his superb casting. This show made great use of the tiny venue and all concerned are to be congratulated .
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