The Other Room kick start 2016 with the challenging double bill of Play by Samuel Beckett and Silence by Harold Pinter. And what a start!!! Here Kate Wasserberg, Titas Halder and their team present two of the most brilliant but difficult writers of the twentieth century. The challenge of Beckett is his rigidness in how you approach his plays and Pinter for the task of the ‘silence’ or much made-of Pinter-pause.
Play – Victoria John, Matthew Bulgo, Peta Cornish
While, as stated in the evening’s programme, this is a ‘rare pairing’ it feels very natural and of course it would with Pinter being so enamored and influenced by Beckett’s work. That said the plays are so very different from one another despite both dealing with the absurdity of human condition and the ‘lostness’ of the individual, in their own way.
Both plays are very short with Play being approximately twenty minutes long and Silence twenty-five. While it is necessary to talk about these separately there was a brilliant holism about the evening that connected the two experiences as if the two plays were in deep conversation with one another: a fantastic achievement considering the utterly distinctive styles at play.
The now over fifty year old Play was the first offering of the evening. The only reason I point out the age is because of how current this production felt. And yes, for you Beckett puritans (a club I am a member of), they stuck to his prescriptions but, somehow, still had an ‘Other Room’ stamp on it. This production gave full justification to Beckett’s rigidity in how brilliantly the play came across. It was exciting, funny, heartbreaking and repeat.
The three actors (Peta Cornish, Victoria John, and Matthew Bulgo) dealt with the Beckettian instructions with shear skill and consistency I can only liken to conducted musical instruments. Of course, they had a fine conductor in Kate Wasserberg – her degree of success recently would be boring if she wasn’t providing such fantastic theatre.
She seemed to not just follow Beckett but also understand his musicality and it’s function in opening up the human condition to conversation and contemplation. It was also the first time I ever saw a spot light with comic timing – brilliant.
Silence – Matthew Bulgo, Peta Cornish, Neal McWilliams
The onslaught of energy in Play is then subdued by Titas Halder’s version of Pinter’s Silence. Two of the previous actors, Peta Cornish and Matthew Bulgo, return completely transformed into something more recognizably human. They are joined by Neal McWilliams and the three play with shaping a concept of silence which almost hurts to watch (in a good way). I am left thinking of silence, not as the absence of sound, but what is left when everything and everyone has gone.
Halder’s handling of the tensions that this ‘silence’ leaves in the actual physical ‘empty’ spaces between the characters was again treated like music but there is a more dissonant tone is struck here than with the ordered Play. It would seem that Pinter gives more room for theatre makers to play with in this sense.
Incidentally, Pinter stated himself that people make too much of his pauses. He claimed that a ‘pause’ is give the actor/s a breather should they need it but they do not have to use it. A ‘silence’, however, is there because the character/s don’t know how to deal with what has just happened.
Halder has choreographed a series of moments and silences in this play that are stretched by the actors holding onto the pain, happiness, disappointment etc of any given moment and expressing these by making them physically manifest. The acting here is stunning from all three; necessary to carry Halder’s interpretation off.
What a start to 2016!!! The production of these two plays is a master class in acting and directing the absurd. I could go on forever but I’ll stop now.
Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic!!!
Until February 2
Images: Pallasca Photography