The Hothouse - Review Roundup

nion 2013-05-11 20:12:58

2013-05-18 15:07:06 nion (patient 2009 ~♪)

artsdesk review:

Sunday Times

The Hothouse, Trafalgar Studios

The Hothouse is as angry as the day Pinter wrote it — a marvellously pithy farce

AA Gill Published: 12 May 2013

The taxi driver looked blank when I asked for Trafalgar Studios — a Pinteresque blankness. It’s a unique memorial for a writer, to have his name become the commonplace description, not for a quote, but for the gap between quotes. The old Whitehall, I offered — and a comic recognition lit up his face. This theatre still echoes with the very English guffaws of Brian Rix’s farce. If, in theatrical tradition, it is haunted, it will be by a man searching for his trousers and a Swedish au pair who pops up from behind the sofa.

The Hothouse is the second production in its Trafalgar Transformed season, where Jamie Lloyd is producing a run, says the programme, of “classic revivals, modern masterpieces and vibrant new writing”. The programme will cost you £5, which, even by the West End’s standards, is stiff. An American lady beside me refused to pay, declaiming that on Broadway, in the land of the free, the programmes were free. Pinter would have approved of her stand, but probably disapproved of her being an American and talking loudly in a theatre.

Appropriately, The Hothouse is a farce, or a “tragic comedy”. When asked what his plays were about, Harold famously said, “The weasel under the cocktail cabinet” — his twist on the au pair behind the sofa. The play is set on Christmas Day in what is called the rest home, or the recuperation hospital. It’s probably a psychiatric gulag. The staff are military rather than medical, but wear white coats to go about their business — which is electroconvulsive torture. The set is a shabby Sovietish office, where the back of the stage has been given over to the audience, so we look at ourselves to remind us possibly that we are also silent observers of state repression. It also reminds us what a weird, Brueghelesque bunch London theatregoers are.

The drama centres on the hospital director, Dr Roote, and the apparent fact that one inmate has died and another given birth. His staff are also apparently plotting his overthrow. We never see a patient. Perhaps we are the patients. As usual with Pinter, everything is apparent or, perhaps, nothing is specific. Lloyd has directed this with all the conventions of farce. It’s taken at a dead sprint, spoken with a rhythm that syncopates in favour of the comedy rather than the tragedy, but that just renders it even more sinister and hopeless. It’s the terrible banality of evil that comes down to form-filling, report-filing and the deadening bureaucracy of the killing fields and the concentration camp — run by men who see themselves as, alternately, heroes and martyrs to a great and thankless machine.

This production looks very like Joe Orton — in fact, it was so reminiscent, I thought it must have been written after What the Butler Saw; but if The Hothouse wasn’t performed until 1980, it was apparently written in 1958. What lifts it beyond Orton is the sheer bravado of the writing, the pithy, sensuous, barbed and poisonous language that can shape-shift from satin smalls to straitjacket in the breath of a comma. There are at least half a dozen monologues in this play that you want to shout “encore” after — no modern playwright makes you want to buy the book like Pinter. And this cast deliver them with the dexterity and surprise of a Chinese juggling troupe.

Simon Russell Beale is compelling as Dr Roote, a part once played by Pinter himself — though apparently with fewer laughs. He can change his body language from comic self-pity to throat-catching malevolence in half a step. As ever, his timing has a swift perfection, his voice sliding from falsetto wheedling to growling threats. He is a fabulous compendium of Captain Mainwaring and Josef Mengele. John Simm plays his mercurial, psychopathic assistant as the straight man, delivering his lines with a silky menace and barely disguised fury, half Sergeant Wilson, half Iago. [my emphasis]

Indira Varma is an eye-poppingly pulchritudinous Miss Cutts, mistress to both. Pinter is always less comfortable writing for women, and her part doesn’t have the pyrotechnic power of the blokes’. But while she is on stage, you’re not looking anywhere else. The whole ensemble is as well balanced as a happy jazz band.

The Hothouse’s anger remains undimmed, just as 100 detainees are being strapped into chairs by military doctors to be force-fed at Guantanamo, and an American government so belovedly loathed by Pinter shrugs its shoulders. This is still a prophetic play. Last week, Giulio Andreotti, the godfather and prime minister, died. He was fond of saying that power weighs too heavily only on those who don’t have it.

2015-04-03 00:07:45 耗子嘴里的猫

这个没资源。 只有采访吧 ?

2015-04-03 10:04:53 nion (patient 2009 ~♪)