The Caretaker by Harold Pinter at The Old Vic Theatre

Harold Pinter’s ‘The Caretaker’ makes its return to the London stage this time at The Old Vic. With a formidable cast of Timothy Spall, Daniel Mays and George MacKay this was one play we were not going to miss.

The play develops as a subtle power struggle. Set in the dilapidated house owned by younger brother (MacKay), elder brother (Mays) decides to invite a homeless man (Spall) to stay one night. What follows is the old man’s fumbling attempts to stay in the house with the permission of one or other brother. His allegiance switches depending on which brother appears to be more benevolently disposed towards him. What is equally unsettling is the taciturn relationship between the two brothers as they try to negotiate life. All three men have ambitions, verging on delusions, without the ability to carry them out. Even younger brother, Mick, superficially the most together of the three still seems to be living in dreamland at the end of the play.

Brilliantly staged in a single attic room on the Old Vic stage, we are presented with a room filled with clutter and junk, an old gas stove, a bucket for the rainwater and surprisingly, a Buddha. All items have been picked up by Aston. Having received electric shock treatment as a youngster he now suffers from a limp and an inability to manage his thoughts. Having seen Daniel Mays play assertive or aggressive characters before it was impressive to see him play a social recluse clearly damaged by his ECT. He carried it off with aplomb. George Mackay was fantastic as the younger brother, verging on the unstable, with a strangely manic style of conversation and a surprisingly specific vision for a potential refurbishment of the attic and other rooms. Timothy Spall was perfect as the rogue tramp, full of eccentricities and bizarre mannerisms creating the perfect stereotype of the mad homeless person. His was a character not too dissimilar from other roles Spall has played. viz Wormtail and Mr Venus in Our Mutual Friend.

This play threw up huge levels of uncertainty, tension, and bizarre humour in capturing a picture of three men’s lives in the 60s. A very worthy production to be brought back to the stage by The Old Vic and definitely one not to miss.

Highlight of the show – Spall’s eccentricities, Mays’ displeasure at a mug of Guinness and Mackay’s frenetic outbursts.

WIGS 4/5


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