The Dumb Waiter - first review and photos

Jason Isaacs appeared opposite Lee Evans in this play by Harold Pinter for seven weeks in the spring of 2007

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The Dumb Waiter - first review and photos

Post by Gillian » Thu Feb 08, 2007 8:16 pm

This is what the Independent Online had to say ...

First Night: The Dumb Waiter, Trafalgar Studios, London
Hitmen forget to pack menace

By Rhoda Koenig
Published: 09 February 2007

Harry Burton's 50th-anniversary production of this one-act play is a measure of how far Harold Pinter has come since its premiere. Not performed here until 1960 - its premiere took place in Germany - it was done at the Hampstead Theatre Club, for no fringe theatre closer to the centre of town, and certainly no West End house, was interested in Pinter's odd, creepy plays.

The Dumb Waiter was then half of a double bill and its two leads certainly weren't played by actors as well known as Lee Evans and Jason Isaacs.

In this early play, Pinter's disquieting tone has a looseness and freshness far from the cranked-up intimidation of more recent work. Indeed, menace hardly figures in this rather lightweight version, in part because of its likeable actors.

Peter McKintosh's basement, a room with all the charm of a long-abandoned underground toilet, is actually more oppressive than the mood created by the two, who wait for orders of an unknown kind from an unknown master. Indeed, the feeling they generate is less that of two hitmen, as they are gradually revealed to be, than of a patient but much-tried man and his exasperating younger brother.

As Ben (Isaacs), reads and rereads his paper to kill time, Evans's Gus puts on his shoes like someone who has lost the instructions. Squinting into each one like a man peering into a tunnel, he looks up at the fluorescent light as if it will clarify matters and then retrieves a forgotten object from their toes. Evans makes an exceptionally gormless gunman but his overstated manner - he barks his lines from the beginning and rushes a few - loses much of the character's vulnerability. He doesn't have enough of the whininess of a younger brother fearing, with good reason, that he'll be ignored.

The more disciplined and experienced Ben knows the value of pretending to be wise, or at least untroubled. But the title device, a deus ex machina incarnate, blasts away his composure by slamming down like a huge guillotine blade with demands for food they do not have, shooting up, and returning, ever more ravenous. But the dumb waiter contributes more terror than the two men - perhaps because Pinter's style of evasive, inconsequential chatter is now so familiar that the audience is too ready to laugh to show it gets the nasty joke. At least this audience was.

The production should become more enjoyable once it relaxes a bit but the enjoyment will still come dear. For the same price, one could see, for instance, Don Juan in Soho. Was it impossible to contrive a double bill, or are the targeted patrons those who will be content with a bit of their favourite comedian and then want dinner? Somehow I can't think the future of the theatre lies in accommodating people who don't really like it.



There's also a ton of photos available at Top Photo. Hopefully there will be more soon that aren't watermarked.

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Post by Moira » Thu Feb 08, 2007 8:27 pm

That lighting is stark. It'd drive a person nuts...which is probably the atmosphere they're aimming for.

I hope Mr. Isaacs doesn't get typecast as a hit man/mobster. It'd be nice to see him in a romantic comedy (a good one).

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Post by Bellatrix » Fri Feb 09, 2007 5:02 am

I suspect that reviewer didn't actually pay much attention to the play, much less, understand it. How do these people get jobs? :evil:

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Post by Chari910 » Fri Feb 09, 2007 7:27 am

The Guardian gave it 5 stars!!

Guardian Article

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Post by Bellatrix » Fri Feb 09, 2007 7:43 am

:hands :hands :hands :hands Yay, a reviewer that understood what he was seeing! Trust the Guardian to get it right (I used to work there, so am obviously biased!)! :mrgreen:

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Post by Gillian » Fri Feb 09, 2007 10:45 am


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Post by Gillian » Fri Feb 09, 2007 11:11 am

BTW, has there been any mention of the official website yet...?

http://www.thedumbwaiter.co.uk/index.html

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Post by Hilary the Touched » Fri Feb 09, 2007 11:17 am

“I’ll start enjoying it from tomorrow. It’s a big night, because how it’s received dictates whether we get an audience or not, although apparently it’s selling very well already."
Heheheh :twisted:

Thanks for the links, Gillian--I'll try and git 'em up on the homepage.

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Post by Gillian » Fri Feb 09, 2007 1:42 pm

Here are some images from yesterday's Press Night ...

Wireimage
Getty

Getty's changed their setup so I can't seem to post direct links anymore.
The swine.

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Post by Helen8 » Sat Feb 10, 2007 12:10 pm

Another good Review:

Dumb Waiter' show's Pinter's comic side
By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press Writer
Fri Feb 9, 1:30 PM ET


LONDON - Harold Pinter is serious.

As Britain's greatest living playwright, he won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2005 for drama that "forces entry into oppression's closed rooms." These days he spends much of his time excoriating the United States and British governments over the war in Iraq.

Two new London productions seek to remind audiences of the 76-year-old dramatist's under-appreciated comic side.

The more traditional — and successful — is "The Dumb Waiter," a menacing two-act play first performed in 1960.

Director Harry Burton's production, which opened Thursday at London's Trafalgar Studios, signals its comic credentials by casting Lee Evans, a rubber-limbed physical comedian well known from film and television, in one of the principal roles.

The play is set in a nasty cellar where the anxious Gus (Evans) and the stolid Ben (Jason Isaac's) read the newspaper, discuss sports, seek a cup of tea — and wait.

Though their reason for being there is not immediately clear, the sinister purpose soon becomes apparent. But as their mission is revealed, the baffled pair begin to receive orders for ever-more elaborate meals through a dumb waiter connecting the basement to the building above.

The characters' rising confusion, anger and frustration become increasingly tense — and, yes, funny.

The play owes a debt to the eternally deferred Vladimir and Estragon in Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" — and an even bigger one to the comic music-hall double acts of Pinter's native east London. Isaacs is the gruff straight man, Evans his rangy comic foil.

Evans, who made a West End splash in 2004 starring opposite Nathan Lane in Mel Brooks' exuberant musical, "The Producers," mines a vein of fidgety anxiety not far removed from his standup persona.

It's tempered by Isaacs — a versatile actor known to millions as Lucius Malfoy in the " Harry Potter" movies — who is a model of simmering restraint as the taciturn, slow-boiling Ben.

"The Dumb Waiter" provides an early distillation of Pinter's signature themes. The mix of the naturalistic and the absurd, of grubby domesticity and suppressed violence, the terseness and the famous silences — all ripple through this compact 60-minute drama.

The dumb waiter is a potent symbol of the unseen and seemingly irrational forces that govern human lives, and the characters' attempts to comprehend and mollify its demands are both funny and moving.

"The Dumb Waiter" — like much of Pinter's work — has dated through imitation. The play's arresting final image will not come as a surprise or a shock, as it probably did in 1960. But the production powerfully reminds audiences of his power as a dramatist — and a humorist.

Less successful, according to the London critics, is "Pinter's People," running at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until the end of February. The show is a collection of Pinter sketches performed by a cast of comedians led by comic Bill Bailey.

Most have judged it an unhappy mix. The Independent's Paul Taylor said it was "not an enjoyable evening, by any stretch of the imagination." The Guardian's Michael Billington found the production "woeful."

"Comedy, I sometimes think, is too serious a matter to be left to comedians," he wrote.

"The Dumb Waiter" suggests we should leave it to Pinter instead.

"The Dumb Waiter" plays at Trafalgar Studios through March 24.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070209/ap_ ... b_waiter_1

It sounds like this play's got legs!!! :hands

Helen

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Post by Gillian » Sat Feb 10, 2007 5:33 pm

It sounds like this play's got legs!!!
Four, by last count.




Sorry Helen, couldn't resist. Thanks for the article. :D

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Post by Gillian » Sat Feb 10, 2007 5:54 pm

Here's another great review from The Telegraph ...

Short, sharp lesson from Pinter master
Charles Spencer reviews The Dumb Waiter at the Trafalgar Studio

After last week's Pinter's People, an abysmally acted collection of the dramatist's often far from scintillating sketches, what a pleasure it is to welcome a production that reveals the master of menace and the pregnant pause at the top of his game.

The Dumb Waiter lasts slightly less than an hour, and with top price tickets selling at £30, that works out at just over 50p a minute.

But you get a real bang for your bucks here, with a wonderfully lean, darkly comic and suspenseful script and cracking performances from that most versatile of comedians, Lee Evans, paired with Jason Isaacs, best known as the sinister Malfoy pere in the Harry Potter films.

Pinter wrote The Dumb Waiter at the start of his career as a dramatist back in 1957, yet almost everything that makes his best work distinctive is already in place, not least the sense of edgy unease and the spare precision of his language, which turns the most banal exchanges into often blackly comic stage poetry.

Half a century ago, Pinter was a rep actor, working in such unglamorous locations as Whitby, Huddersfield, Worthing and Palmers Green and in The Dumb Waiter he seems to be taking gleeful revenge on all the creaky thrillers in which he had to appear.

Out goes plodding exposition and plot, and in comes a new form of drama in which suspense is created simply through the power of language and the spaces between words, plus the unlikely prop of a service lift.

Two contract killers are waiting in a godforsaken basement in Birmingham for their instructions for that night's hit.

Both are on edge, but the senior operative Ben (Isaacs) hides it much better than his neurotic junior colleague Gus ( Evans) who cannot keep still, keeps going to the loo and rabbits on mindlessly to keep the terrors at bay.

When a dumb waiter crashes unexpectedly into the room (Matt McKenzie's echoing metallic sound effects are tremendous) the tension proves explosive, though it is released in laughter when we discover it contains a prosaic written request for two braised steak and chips, two sago puddings and two teas without sugar.

That order now conjures up the whole drab atmosphere of the 1950s in a dozen words, but the play itself still feels startlingly fresh and sharp, not least in the chilling ingenuity of its final twist.

Harry Burton's production achieves exactly the right mixture of menace and nervy comedy with the help of a splendidly atmospheric set by Peter McKintosh (you can almost smell the rising damp and the dirty sheets on the single beds) and two outstanding performances.

Evans manages to be funny, contemptible and terrified all at the same time as Gus. There is something simian about his awkwardly dangling arms, tilted head and pendulous lower lip, a suggestion of mental sluggishness that doesn't make his fear any less intense.

But he also makes you laugh out loud with his whining catalogue of personal grievances as he prepares to kill.

Isaacs provides the perfect foil as the taciturn Ben, using silence, stillness and sudden shocking violence to create that unpredictable edge of danger that drives so many of Pinter's plays.

The Dumb Waiter may be short, but there is no mistaking its status as a groundbreaking modern classic.

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Post by Helen8 » Mon Feb 12, 2007 10:55 am

From The Independent Online:

The Dumb Waiter, Trafalgar Studios, London

Demonstrating that Pinter can be a laugh a minute is suddenly à la mode too, with Sir Harold's rather surprising blessing. Hot on the heels of Bill Bailey's Haymarket staging of his sketches - with some sorely overdone physical clowning - we have Lee Evans starring in The Dumb Waiter, an early two-hander that is something like Waiting For Godot crossed with a crime thriller. Two little guys, Evans's dimwitted Gus and Jason Isaacs's tetchy Ben, are stuck in a basement, waiting for orders from a mysterious boss. They are his henchmen, but keep getting absurd notes demanding room service, sent via the dumb waiter.

This is an intriguing weird and certainly comical work but the room service routine is overextended and, whilst Harry Burton's staging looks claustrophobically bleak, Isaacs needs more weighty menace. Evans, as always, is irresistibly funny as a splay-footed dimwit, but he was more brilliant and tightly directed in Beckett's Endgame.

http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/thea ... 259355.ece

Helen

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Post by Helen8 » Mon Feb 12, 2007 11:03 am

Revival of 'The Dumb Waiter' shows Harold Pinter's comic side
By Jill Lawless

LONDON (AP) - Harold Pinter is serious. Arguably Britain's greatest living playwright, he won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2005 for drama that "forces entry into oppression's closed rooms." These days he spends much of his time excoriating the U.S. and British governments over the war in Iraq.

Two new London productions seek to remind audiences of the 76-year-old dramatist's under-appreciated comic side.

The more traditional - and successful - is "The Dumb Waiter," a menacing two-act play first performed in 1960.

Director Harry Burton's production, which opened Thursday at London's Trafalgar Studios, signals its comic credentials by casting Lee Evans, a rubber-limbed physical comedian well known from film and television, in one of the principal roles.

The play is set in a grotty cellar where the anxious Gus (Evans) and the stolid Ben (Jason Isaacs) read the newspaper, discuss sports, seek a cup of tea - and wait.

Though their reason for being there is not immediately clear, the sinister purpose soon becomes apparent. But as their mission is revealed, the baffled pair begin to receive orders for ever-more elaborate meals via a dumbwaiter connecting the basement to the building above.

The characters' rising confusion, anger and frustration become increasingly tense - and, yes, funny.

The play owes a debt to the eternally deferred Vladimir and Estragon in Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" - and an even bigger one to the comic music-hall double acts of Pinter's native east London. Isaacs is the gruff straight man, Evans his rangy comic foil.

Evans, who made a West End splash in 2004 starring opposite Nathan Lane in Mel Brooks' exuberant musical "The Producers," mines a vein of fidgety anxiety not far removed from his standup persona.

It is tempered by Isaacs - a versatile actor known to millions as Lucius Malfoy in the "Harry Potter" movies - who is a model of simmering restraint as the taciturn, slow-boiling Ben.

"The Dumb Waiter" provides an early distillation of Pinter's signature themes. The mix of the naturalistic and the absurd, of grubby domesticity and suppressed violence, the terseness and the famous silences - all ripple through this compact 60-minute drama.

The dumbwaiter is a potent symbol of the unseen and seemingly irrational forces that govern human lives, and the characters' attempts to comprehend and mollify its demands are both funny and moving.

"The Dumb Waiter" - like much of Pinter's work - has dated through imitation. The play's arresting final image will not come as a surprise or a shock, as it probably did in 1960. But the production powerfully reminds audiences of his power as a dramatist and a humorist.

[Next follows a lesser review of "Pinter's People" running at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.]

"The Dumb Waiter" suggests we should leave it to Pinter instead. "The Dumb Waiter" is at Trafalgar Studios in London through March 24.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/0702 ... d_pinter_1

Helen

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Post by Helen8 » Mon Feb 12, 2007 11:06 am

From "This Is London" in the Evening Standard:

Evans mesmerising in vintage piece of theatre
By Nicholas de Jongh

Half a century ago no British playwright created such a fresh, dramatic stir as Harold Pinter.

How pleasing to discover this 1957 one-acter, a black comedy of suspense and menace, dove-tailed with a cat-and-mouse thriller in which the mouse never realises he is being hunted, has lost none of its potency.

The play's abiding strangeness and capacity to induce mystified laughter lingers on, thanks to Harry Burton's beautifully nuanced production and even more to a mesmerising, definitive performance by Lee Evans in which comedy and pathos are entwined.

Set in a delapidated basement, an area into which no normal Fifties play would have dreamed of venturing, The Dumb Waiter plays fresh variations on the theme of Beckett's Waiting for Godot.

Two youngish men, formal in braces and black trousers, lie sprawled on narrow iron beds. Peter McIntosh's design, with its filthy back wall from which most tiles have vanished to a floor whose lino has perished, reeks of decay.

A waiting-game is launched, but for what or whom? Evans's hilarious Gus, eyes vacant and feet splayed, face swivelling like a ruminant tortoise, regards life as a crossword puzzle from which almost all the clues have been expunged.

No wonder he bombards his senior partner, Jason Isaacs's tougher, over-relaxed Ben, who reads choice shock-horror items from a broadsheet newspaper, with questions and complaints.

Gus has been ridiculously categorised as a political protester against conformity's forces. As Evans plays him he emerges as a fall-guy of a brutalised, anarchic, authoritarian society, a close relation of psychologically tortured Stanley in Pinter's The Birthday Party and mentally-damaged Aston in The Caretaker. He acquires the poignancy of a man out of his depth, flailing in three feet of water.

The suspense comes in disturbing flurries, entwined with absurdist comedy. A letter containing 12 matches is thrust under the door; a brandished revolver sparks the realisation the men are hired killers waiting their victim's arrival.

As if a restaurant existed upstairs, the dumbwaiter of the double-eged title comes hurtling down the lift-shaft with meal orders to which the killers comically react by despatching their own paltry snacks.

A palpable sense of foreboding rises as they rehearse their familiar, murderous moves. The catastrophe comes hurtling out of the blue.

Full price tickets for 60 minutes is a bit steep, but wow - what a vintage theatrical hour it is!

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/theatre/s ... d=23384922

Helen

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