The Caretaker review from 2000

Monday, 20 November, 2000
Review by: 
Darren Dalglish

This is a brilliantly written play by Pinter that is directed and performed to almost perfection. If only all plays in the West End were this good? Intriguing, funny, mysterious, fascinating, gripping, this play has it all!

The play concerns 'Davies', an old tramp, who is given a bed for the night by a strange and vulnerable man, called 'Aston'. Aston lives in an old wreck of a house, which belongs to his brother 'Mick'. What transpires is a strange power game between the three. Why did Aston invite 'Davies'' into his home? Was it out of sympathy because he himself could relate to being alone when he was in a mental home as a boy? Why does his brother Mick allow Davies to stay? After all, it seems he wants Davies to go, but he will not force him to leave unless Aston wants him too. This absorbing drama is full of questions and very few answers!

I have seen Michael Gambon on stage many times over the last few years, but this performance exceeds all of them. The minute he walks on stage he is totally convincing, with his soiled clothes, grubby hair and dirty face. He could so easily have been a real tramp straight off the street! His facial expressions are a dream. It is astonishing how he can convey his thoughts with just a blank look on his face. Just observe his face when ' Mick' is describing what the house would look like if he turned it into a penthouse. Gambon's timing and delivery is exceptional and he produces what must be one of his greatest performances. However, Gambon is not alone, there is also impressive performances from Rupert Graves as the menacing and ambitious 'Mick', and Douglas Hodge' as his fragile brother 'Aston'.

The set design by Rob Howell matches the tramp, a grubby attic room with crumbling damp plaster on the walls, dripping roof and the whole place full of junk.

This production has received great notices from the popular press....THE GUARDIAN says, "...excellent revival, what astonishes one is the way a play, at once so familiar and so strange, yields new meanings through the chemistry of the particular actors." THE DAILY MAIL describes it as a "gripping production". THE INDEPENDENT says, "Overall, The Caretaker is not only a classic revival with uncommon vigour and attitude, but a great night out." THE EVENING STANDARD says, "What a wrenching, dark, dramatic comedy Marber and his actors....make of this vintage Pinter." PETER HEPPLE for THE STAGE says that this production is "more riveting forty years on" and describes the play as "remarkable". KATE STRATTON for TIME OUT says, "It is Gambon's evening". She goes on to say , "He (Gambon) brilliantly brings out the comedy.." DOMINIC CAVENDISH for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "Patrick Marber's first-rate particularly welcome."

Plays of this quality are rare nowadays on the West End, and so any serious lover of dark, fascinating drama, with great acting, had better get down to the Comedy theatre.

This is too good to miss!


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