Theatre Review: The Dumb Waiter

9 June 2009

Tom Martin enjoys this production of Pinter


The Dumb Waiter

7.30pm, Tue 2nd – Sat 6th Jun

Corpus Christi Playroom


four stars out of four

The Dumb Waiter is a superb production that deserves more than a 400 word article on the TCS website. Ben (Oliver Soden) is startling as a character who alternates between menace and explosive violence, while Gus (Ben Kavanagh) is genuinely unsettling as his conversation effortlessly oscillates between the banal and chillingly murderous. However their performance together is more than the sum of their parts. Even knowing the play I found myself becoming increasingly agitated as the end approached and the mystery that sustained the play came to an abrupt climax. Both actors are entirely believable as men that have (beneath their surfaces) a painful bewilderment and brutality. Even more impressive was the fact that within the threatening atmosphere of the play they still garnered some laughs. Their dramatic relationship heightens the dislocation of language and events that inexorably builds during the play; frankly necessary as in the Playroom’s intimate setting any hesitancy or weakness on the actor’s parts would have spelt disaster – which leads on to the set and direction.

Though I am sure it won’t be long before Patrick Garety, fresh from directing Waiting for Godot, is leading headline performances at the ADC, the cloying, dark, claustrophobic venue of the corpus playroom was perfectly employed for this sinister production. The lighting was simple and effective – dazzling the audience and rendering Ben and Gus’s faces shadowed for most of the production; while the L shaped seating meant speech was never directed to the audience but rather disconcertingly into space. Off stage noise was perfectly off-putting and the attention to detail – just look at the newspaper headline – was impressive.

Ultimately you may be thinking that both the actors and director are surely set to be stalwarts in the Cambridge Arts scene, so we will all see much more of them, but this is no excuse not to head down to the Corpus. Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter cemented his position as one of the foremost writers of our generation, and it may do the same for those involved in this production. Emerge from the warm oblivion of post exam drink haze, or take an hour (it’s only a one act play) out of revision for those unfortunates still going strong, to see a production that should have a full house each night.