The two short Pinter plays currently playing at the Young Vic are really
short - both together come in at well under an hour. First up Victoria Station
, in which the controller of a minicab firm (Keith Dunphy) is desperately trying to get one of the drivers (Kevin Doyle) to make a pickup in the middle of the night; but the latter is having an existential crisis and doesn't seem to have ever heard of Victoria Station, or know where he now is. Sometimes funny, always lyrical and very odd, it's basically just a sketch and an enjoyable, if obscure one. In Jeff James' production it blends straight into the slightly longer and much darker One for the Road
. Now the sharp angles of Alex Lowde's set house an interrogation room, as Doyle's authority figure stalks with menacing politeness around Dunphy's battered suspect, Victor. Its political ideas and feeling of violence are a lot more in-your-face here than in a lot of Pinter's work, but I still found it a powerful piece, there's real hints of 1984
but with added religion.
Richard's first experience of Pinter had been Moonlight
so I was surprised when he wanted to come to this as well; the double bill seems to have sealed his negative opinion of the playwright though, and he was surprised when I didn't share his negative reaction this time. I think on some level there's things about Pinter's style that are either going to click with you or not. He would have preferred the particular instances of torture (apparently a case in Chile, in this instance) that inspired the play to have been more explicit, Victor's crime against the state spelled out; whereas for me its blank universality, the fact that anything you do or are could become, almost arbitrarily, the thing the state hates most, is where most of the piece's power comes from. We also see Victor's wife (Anna Hewson,) words like "slut" and "whore" written on her face, and clearly having been raped; and briefly his child (Rory Fraser in tonight's performance) which was particularly interesting for me, to see how a child fits into both Pinter's menacing landscape and his very particular use of language (I thought Fraser acquitted himself very well in this regard.) It also makes for a horrific ending and I have to agree with Pinter's widow Antonia Fraser, as quoted in the programme notes, about how chilling the line "My soldiers don't like you either, my little darling" is. My theatre companion's very different reaction clearly means this isn't for everyone but although the performances wear their emotions on their sleeves a bit more than I'm used to seeing in Pinter I found the main play in particular disturbingly powerful.One for the Road
by Harold Pinter is booking until the 15th of October at the Young Vic's Clare.