Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Guest Review - Dominic Waldron watches Pinter and a Pair of Chekhov's Shorts

This review is brought to you by Dominic Waldron. A professional actor and director at Bradon Forest Theatre. After directing a very successful version of Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party last February, we treated him to tickets for last nights performance for his birthday!

Last night I attended Pinter and a Pair of Chekhov’s Shorts at the Swindon Arts Centre.

Compass Theatre Company opened the first half of the evening with The Evil of Tobacco. A humorous, yet sad play about a gentleman who decides to discuss his life and personal history with his audience, instead of the health concerns related to tobacco.

The Proposal, the second play of the evening was a breath of fast paced, farcical air. Ivan Lomov, a nervous wreck asking permission to marry his neighbour’s daughter, goes to pieces when he inadvertently sparks an argument amongst himself, his neighbour and his daughter about land ownership. This version by Neil Sissons was fast, humorous and slick, but I feel a little further fine tuning needed to be done and the direction wasn’t quite finished.

After a short interval we piled back into the auditorium for the climax of the evening, The Dumb Waiter by Harold Pinter. Being a Pinter fan, I have seen many versions of this play and all the various companies have had one thing in common; a complete lack of understanding for what it is they are doing. I’m sorry to say that Michael Onslow and David Smith where no exception.
I’ve always firmly believed that the actor should perform a Harold Pinter character as honest and as naturalistic as possible, thus allowing the play to entertain the audience. This dark piece of text implies so much yet you see and hear nothing. Pinter's unique style of writing forces the audience to conclude their own story, character relationships and purpose, yet all this was lost. Michael and David forced shallow ideas, caricatures and themes into the eye of the audience and desperately looked for meaning in their one act play. They were fish out of water in this Pinter ocean and they clung to any sense of “entertainment” they could, whether deploying elongated pauses with no artistic merit, or shouting and physically beating each other. Neither of which worked. Once again, a brave theatre company have grabbed the horns of the Harold Pinter Bull and been tossed aside as on-lookers cringe.

All in all, Compass Theatre Company provided a nice night out. At £12 a ticket it was defiantly worth seeing. The three plays chosen were a good combination, with a wide range of styles, characters and themes. I just wish direction was stronger and had a bigger sense of purpose.

Thanks Dominic! I guess it's always hard to review anything without feeling a little bad about honest (if less than positive,) opinions. Of course we welcome anyone to watch our work at Bradon Forest, and will gratefully receive any feedback!

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