No Man's Land Review 2001

Friday, 7 December, 2001

Harold Pinter’s 1975 play is a complex drama that will confuse many, but it is an intriguing dark comedy that is performed by an exceptional cast.

Directed by Harold Pinter, the play explores the mysterious relationship between Spooner and Hirst, two elderly men who have supposedly just met. The play starts with them conversing in the Hampstead home of Hirst. Spooner claims to be a poet, Hirst says very little. As the play progresses Hirst becomes drunk and crawls to bed, but then his ‘servants’, Foster and Briggs come into the room and menacingly question Spooner about why he is there.

After the Interval it is now morning and Spooner is asleep in the drawing room and when he awakes he finds the door to the room locked. However, Briggs suddenly unlocks the door and brings him breakfast with champagne, which is something Spooner claims he always enjoys. Then Hirst enters the room, but this time acting as if he has known Spooner all his life and they converse again, but this time discussing old times.

So what is it all about, well I am not too sure! At first I thought maybe they were occupants of an asylum as they certainly appeared to have lost their minds!! But maybe it is about dementia and loss of memory in one’s twilight years. In fact, a clue is probably at the end of act one when Foster says “Do you know what it is like to be in a room when the lights suddenly go out and one is left in the dark?” and then suddenly turns off the light and exits the room leaving Spooner in the darkness. I guess this is what it must be like when one is going senile, remembering things one minute and then being in the dark the next?

Or maybe it is an observation of our dreams and disappointments. This is because Hirst seems interested in the past when times were good, but now disappointed with old age. Maybe this is why he hankers on about his 30 year-old photo album. And Spooner who claims he is a poet, but the servants claim they know him from cleaning tables at a Chalk Farm pub, so maybe he is fantasising about a life and statue he would have liked?

To be honest I don’t know what Pinter is trying to convey, but nevertheless it is a powerful play of cryptic themes that is brilliantly acted. John Wood is outstanding as the scruffy poet Spooner, who is down on his luck. His expression at the start of the second act is a dream, as he looks dumbfounded when Hirst starts talking to him as if he is a life long friend. Corin Redgrave, is equally good as Hirst, an old literary rich man who is drunk and confused most of the time. Andy de la Tour as the overbearing servant Briggs, and Danny Dyer as the young Foster, makes up this fine ensemble.

This production has received positive notices from the popular press..... BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, “Excellent revival. Here’s an upmarket tramp trying to dominate a man of means, as well as gratify his own shaky ego, by joining him in his drunken reminiscences and manipulating his dotty fantasies. Quintessential Pinter, fascinating Pinter…” NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says,” Taut, splendidly acted production.” MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GUARDIAN says, “This is a rich evening in which Pinter memorably shows how the past, in theatre as in life, is fixed and fluid at the same time.” PAUL TAYLOR for THE INDEPENDENT says, “Masterly mix of hilarity and heartbreak."

No Man’s Land is a fascinating play that some will revel in the acting, others will be challenged by its inscrutable style and others will think is a load of old tosh. I urge you to go see it and find out! (Darren Dalglish)

Links to full reviews from newspapers...

The Guardian
The Independent
The Times
The Evening Standard

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