The Theatreguide.London Review
At The Pinter: Moonlight and Night School
Harold Pinter Theatre Autumn 2018
Part of a season devoted to Harold Pinter's one-act plays, this evening brings together two hour-long dramas united by a mordant wit, the depiction of alienation and loneliness, and a love for the music of language.
Night School, a television play from 1960 (misdated in the programme as 1979), is a darkish comedy about a hapless loser.
Just out of prison, inept criminal Walter discovers that his family have rented out his room while he was away. They believe the lodger is a schoolteacher who spends her evenings taking classes, but he suspects that she rents by the hour.
With his characteristic overreaching and clumsiness he attempts simultaneously to expose her, woo her and take back his room, only for her to prove too slippery and skilled at games-playing for him.
It is a comedy of character, giving actor Al Weaver opportunity to develop an always-out-of-his depth loser in Walter, while Brid Brennan and Janie Dee capture the archetypes of his innocently obtuse maiden aunts and Robert Glenister walks effortlessly through the role of a local gangster.
Pinter fans will spot in Sally what was once known as the Pinter Woman, inspired (and frequently played) by his first wife Vivian Merchant, and Jessica Barden captures the deceptively simple-looking sexiness that makes men think they can control her but that covers an ultimate unknowability that gives her all the power.
Director Ed Stambollouian draws strong performances from all of them, but occasionally gets in their way, as with an onstage drummer who punctuates or underscores the dialogue with noisy flourishes that are intrusive and ineffectual.
Moonlight (1993) is a quietly sad play about loss and disconnection.
A dying man (Robert Glenister) refuses to go gentle into that good night, directing his inventive and vicious railing against his long-suffering wife. But she (Brid Brennan) does not suffer in silence, and we quickly learn to await with delight the way one of his tirades will be deflated by a quiet but no less poisonous zinger from her.
Meanwhile their adult sons (Al Weaver and Dwane Walcott), alienated from their father, demonstrate their genetic inheritance by delighting in verbal games that challenge each other to keep up with the ever-changing rules.
And anchoring the play in sadness is a teenage daughter/sister (Isis Hainsworth), possibly a ghost, who feels it is her burden to hold the family together and keep them from harm.
Much of the dialogue is comic in a nastily insulting way and much just revels in the sound of words rattled off. But director Lyndsey Turner and the cast (also including Janie Dee and Peter Polycarpou) capture and sustain the unhappy experience of people who have backed themselves into positions so far apart that they cannot find their way back together.
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