Review - Pinter Three starring Lee Evans at the Harold Pinter Theatre
Jamie Lloyd’s Pinter Wonderland rolls on at the Harold Pinter Theatre. He’s pulled off a coup by bringing comedy legend Lee Evans out of retirement, and while seeing him on stage again is pretty special, this collection of plays mesh together in a cohesive production that will make you think about the things and people you may have lost.
We open with Landscape, which is Pinter at his most abstract. A couple sits on the stage, Keith Allen’s Duff talks to Tamsin Grieg’s Beth. She never looks at him as he waffles about bad beer at the pub and coming home to his wife, while Beth speaks softly into a microphone – though Duff cannot hear her - about cuddling up to men on the beach. Like staring at a painting, you develop stories about the couple. Who are they? Is she dead? Did he do it? Despite being still for the half hour or so of Landscape, Grieg is pretty captivating as the vacant woman, while Allen leaks anger and aggression to hint at sinister reasons for their situation.
Lloyd breaks into a run of laughs and with the introduction of Tom Edden and Lee Evans, who comes out of retirement once more to star in the play, has found one of the funniest double acts. They both shine individually: Edden stars in Girls, a short sketch about a professor having a meltdown about a magazine clipping that states ‘Girls like to be spanked’, while Evans plays a man raising a glass to lost friends in Monologue. Injecting some of that famous energy from his stand-up routines, it sees the unnamed man come to terms with losing old friends, and convincing himself that he’s better off.
But Edden and Evans will have you in stitches during Trouble in the Works, where Evans plays a factory worker voicing his colleagues’ dismay about various, ridiculously named parts on the production line to his bemused manager. And in That’s Your Trouble, the pair make a stupid discussion about where a man holding a sandwich board will feel the most pain utterly hysterical.
Pinter Three ends pretty much where it started. Tamsin Grieg motionless on a bed in A Kind of Alaska, as she begins to wake from a three-decade coma. Her doctor, again played by Allen, attempts to find out how much she knows about herself, while she has seemingly been frozen as her 16-year-old self. It demonstrates Pinter’s ability to use language to baffle, much like in The Birthday Party, as Grieg whittles off seemingly nonsensical lines.
The theme of loss strides through the three main plays: Beth and Duff have somehow lost each other in Landscape; Evans’ unnamed man driven those closest to him away in Monologue; Deborah has lost her sense of self in A Kind of Alaska. Sprinkled with a spattering of slapstick and song from a strong cast, this is the best of the Pinter bunch so far.