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The Theatreguide.London Review

One For The Road and Victoria Station
The Print Room and Young Vic Theatres      Autumn 2011

This forty-five-minute program of two short plays by Harold Pinter has something of the feel of a dinner made up of starters and no main course the appetisers may be well prepared, but the meat and potatoes are missing. 

Victoria Station is openly a light curtain-raiser, and even One For The Road, which other productions have shown to be a substantial piece, is skimmed through in a way that leaves us wanting more. 

Victoria Station is made up of the radio conversations between a London cab driver and his dispatcher.

The driver has somehow become disconnected from reality, not sure where he is and claiming never to have heard of Victoria Station, while the dispatcher, alone in his little room, is beginning to have doubts about whether there's a world out there at all.

Director Jeff James and actors Kevin Doyle (driver) and Keith Dunphy (controller) catch all the Ionesco-ish absurdity of their conversations but lean a little too heavily on the scattered hints of something darker (Who or what is in the back seat of the cab?), as the more literal and explainable the situation becomes, the more mundane and trivial the play feels. 

The two actors segue without a break into the more substantial One For The Road, with Doyle as the interrogator of Dunphy's political prisoner and also, separately, of his wife (Anna Hewson) and son (Rory Fraser or Thomas Capodici).

The core of the play lies in the contrast between the interrogator's urbane calm and confidence and the evidence that his prisoners have been and will continue to be tortured, raped and/or killed offstage. 

Tellingly, we never learn what the supposed crimes are and no real questioning goes on here, as torture and revelling in the ability to torture are evidently ends in themselves.

'I can do absolutely anything I like,' says the man in power, not as a threat, but as a complacent statement of fact. 

Pinter's chilling depiction of what Hannah Arendt called the banality of evil comes through strongly, though actors and director miss what Pinter himself was able to bring out when he played the interrogator, the despicable moral hollowness of the man and his own ever-so-slight awareness of it. 

The double bill played at The Print Room September 13 to October 1 and then The Young Vic October 6 to 15.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of Victoria Station & One For The Road - Print Room 2011


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