Few events in the Welsh capital has recently caused such a fever as No Man’s Land. It’s not every day two great thespians come to our city. So this rare opportunity to see them should not be missed. It would be criminal otherwise.
The fact that this is a Harold Pinter play in itself, is enough of an attraction. This work in wonderfully odd. The beauty of the piece stems from its exquisite preoccupation for word games and trickery. His characters never give you all, only ever ideas and glimpse of their true selves. To hear their ramblings is an art of itself.
Ian McKellen is Spooner, a clap trap vagabond poet who has found his way to the plush property of Patrick Stewart’s Hirst, through suspicious means (Hampstead Heath is touched upon and lingering gay themes are evident). What follows is a heady mix of supposed dementia, lies and heightened tension of threat and pure menace. The wry blatherings of McKellen are worth th price of admission alone, as are the refined silences of Stewart and his vacant glaring episodes.
Waving away the stars from my eyes, the two are an utter joy to watch on as the tables frequently turn on one another, brilliant complimented by the supporting cast of Damien Molony and Owen Teale. Molony is Foster, Hirst son of sorts, spinning great little stories and as Teale’s Briggs is a threatening thug, who could violently snap at any moment. These two are their own double act, along with Hirst and Spooner.
The absence of a female character adds to the testosterone and slight homoerotic nature of the play, as four very different male figures grace us for some two hours. We questions what we gained from watching this, but still are struck by it’s execution and intent. The brief aching misery seen in Stewart can bring tears of sorrow, as does much of the humour with tears of joy. The ending as well is a miniature cyclone of word play once more, as a melancholia appears to dust the whole stage.
The text has heightened vulgarity of much of them: Briggs snaps at Foster: “Everyone knows that champagne should be drunk before lunch, you cunt!” . Spooner’s flippant inquiry to Hirst of “Do you come too Hampstead Heath often?” had this giddy audience in a bout of loud hysterics. Many a snipe, jab and riff is giving and the joyous contradictions of each are simply more than amusing.
Cardiff might not see these two stalwarts of performing again, but the experience of seeing them locally is at times just too much to take.
An evening to cherish for years to come.
No Man’s Land, New Theatre, Cardiff