Posts Tagged ‘kristin scott thomas’

Mini-review – Old Times – Harold Pinter Theater

March 15, 2013

It’s finally getting to the point where in my quest to see all plays by Pinter, I’m now starting to see plays for the second time. I have to say, I’m enjoying this. Part of it is because so many Pinter plays are so attractively short, perfect for a quick theater dip on a work night. But part of it is because I’m still attracted to the mysteries of Pinter, to the fact that when I see his shows I don’t always know what’s going on, but I get the fun of trying to work it out.

So we come to Old Times, the first Pinter play I saw done well, at the Donmar back in 2004 (how time flies!). I was more than willing to see it again at the (newly christened) Harold Pinter Theater, though I was indifferent to the “star casting” of Kristin Scott Thomas; I just wanted to see a good play.

What I got, to be sure, was a short play, and all of the words were still there like before. It was a Thomas as Anna night (with Lia Williams as the mousy and nearly silent Kate), so we had a big-smiling, lovely blond woman with lots of legs and flouncing and necklace playing. There was certainly an underlying, interconnected set of tensions: Anna’s chatter was interrupted by the occasional burst of temper from Kate’s husband Deeley (Rufus Sewell), and Kate’s taciturnity and body language seemed to indicate something was bothering her … though rather often she just seemed invisible.

As before, I found myself sucked in by the little slips in time, when Kate and Anna of yore, young girls in London, seemed to materialize for a brief moment, and their closeness and the vibrancy of their life became real. Watching it, you have to ask yourself, what happened to that? What happened to the happy Kate? What happened to the close friendship between her and Anna? I no longer believed (as I did the first time) they’d been having an affair, and my thoughts that perhaps Anna was killed by Kate (she does say she saw Anna dead) now seem just a matter of my taking one sentence too literally (as it’s immediately contradicted). But there was clearly a moment when Kate turned against Anna. Was it really so simple that Deeley is hiding an affair with with his wife’s former best friend? But … I’m still not sure. Maybe it happened in Sicily. Maybe, really, Kate was just angry at all of Deeley’s friends. The possibility that Deeley might have slept with Anna “back in the day” is there, but I wasn’t buying it. It’s all still a bit of a mystery to me.

Problematically (with getting the “right” interpretation), I felt a lack of commitment from the actors – perhaps not so surprising so late into the run; but the obvious wrongness of Anna and Deeley’s flirting while Kate bathes, and the lack of subtlety to the whole thing, just felt like … well, heavyhandedness in the face of a lack of clarity. But they also just seemed to be going to their paces. A pity, really: I recall seeing Lia Williams before and thinking how amazing she was. Maybe I need to come back on a night when she’s Anna. Or, maybe, I got my money’s worth out of my 2nd balcony restricted view seat and that’s how it goes.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, March 12, 2013. It is booking through April 6th.)

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Mini-review – Betrayal – Comedy Theater

August 19, 2011

There is something so perfect about seeing Pinter at the Comedy Theater, where, per the posters, nearly every play he’s written has been produced, or so it seems. Unfortunately the current revival of Betrayal is suffering from the pricing associated with celebrity casting (Kristin Scott Thomas), so I’ve put off seeing this show for months waiting for seats I could afford. £25.00 in the way way way up there balcony? Forget it. However, Lastminute.com saved my bacon with some £15 restricted view seats that were at least actually seats rather than standing (albeit designed for ladies shorter and slimmer than myself: I spent the whole show sitting sideways), so a few days before this production ends I was finally able to see it.

The production got off to a stilted start as Thomas sits with Douglas Henshall, the boyfriend to her character Emma, having drinks at a table and failing to discuss whatever it is they’ve come to discuss. While I thought they might try to play up the Pinterian “silences,” in fact the clunkiness came from the rather mechanical way they were and then weren’t looking at each other. Sentence end: she up, he down. Pause: he at her, she sideways. I imagined them being drilled in it mercilessly until Ian Rickson was positive they knew exactly, at every phrase, where Emma and Jerry are looking. I quailed as we were dragged through the painful scene. Was this going to be a terrible evening? Just minutes later (though going backwards in time), Emma throws the keys across the stage in what was supposed to be a furious, despairing moment, but which had the sponenaiety of a birthday party for Kim Jong Il.

And then … God, when did the magic happen? Was it when snippy, somewhat evil Robert (Ben Miles) came on stage and we started to see the proof of the first of what began to seem like an endless series of lies? Watching Robert prowl around and bluster, I couldn’t help but think of the playwright’s own lies in telling this play, as he retold his own story in a way that suited his needs. Who really was the baddie? Was the boyfriend portrayed as a bit of a simpleton in part to wreak revenge for the wife’s infidelity, or was the husband a bully because it made him less sympathetic? I wasn’t sure of the details of the real life incidents but, man, I got sucked in fast. Scene after scene of unspun and newly minted untruths, the simple hard facts of how manipulative people are to each other, the strange mystery of how passion plays into the equation, the sense of ownership that comes into relationships, the pathetic reality of how completely unable to entangle ourselves from each other we are … I was almost breathless waiting for each scene to happen. I lost track of time. I lost track of the play. I forgot about the actors (although I did wonder about some clothes and set furnishings). And suddenly it was over and, oh man, Pinter had taken me for quite a ride. I realize it was only 90 minutes long but it was the most engaged period of time I’d spent in a theater in ages.

Anyway, it’s a few days later, and the play is closing this weekend, but man, if you’re trying to figure out what to do and you want one of those peak experiences, I’d highly recommend seeing Betrayal. I was immensely pleased at what I got for £15 (despite the near bruises on my shins) and expect you will be, too.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, August 15th, 2011. It’s final perfomance is Saturday at 7:30 PM.)