first night

The Dumb Waiter

Matt Plampton finds excellence in a familiar play.

Oulton’s director’s notes aim to make the audience feel involved. An ambitious aspiration, yet one that was achieved.

The black comedy of The Dumb Waiter cemented Harold Pinter as one of the great contemporary British playwrights. As such, it was a challenging choice for NADSAT to tackle, as Pinter’s work is filled with multiple complexities to the point that every moment of silence is as important – if not more so – than the actual dialogue. Nevertheless, the performance captured the excellence of Pinter’s work, and even though this is a play I have seen and read multiple times, I was still left tense and engaged until the very end.

Michael Forde really drew the audience in as we empathised with the character of  Gus. He played on the childlike nature of his character with his high pitched questioning and continual aggregated movements which remained natural during the performance.  He remained dynamic throughout, and there was clear development in the character, as you could clearly see the moments of triviality, annoyance, submission and the final poignant realisation of his fate. Forde played up on the clearly sensitive and innocent nature of the part, which allowed the audience to sympathise with an accomplished hit-man – thereby making his final demise that much more saddening. If I were to have any complaints with his performance, it would be the need for the diction to be a bit clearer in places.

Similarly, Xander Drury gave an accomplished performance in his portrayal of Ben. His domineering and aggressive stage presence and body language highlighted the clear power he had over Gus. He also played up on his lower class background, with his somewhat intimidated reaction to speaking into the dumb waiter, which was cleverly done, as it gave a sharp contrast to the rest of the performance. He executed the moments of silence with great conviction, as there was always an uneasy feeling of aggression with the way he sat on the bed and read the newspaper, which made those moments just as engaging as the dialogue itself. There were times when Drury did allow the aggression to come through too strongly, which detracted from the real crescendo moments, but this was only a minor issue in an otherwise excellent portrayal of Ben.

The dramatic betrayal in The Dumb Waiter is heightened by Pinter’s use of interjecting comedy all the way through the play. Both director and actors played this aspect of Pinter’s work extremely well, as the audience was thrown from moments of tension and aggression to moments of laughter as the men discussed ridiculous new stories to their multiplying frustration at the increasingly complex food orders. Thus, the final betrayal was made that more poignant, as it was such a sharp contrast to the moments that had preceded it. This would have been so easy to miss, were it not for the excellence of this production.

Overall, the play was extremely professional and polished. The stage scenery and lighting were kept to Pinter’s style; similarly, the sound effects were executed perfectly, so as not to detract from the excellent performances from the actors.

NADSAT really have created a truly brilliant production of Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter. They are able to highlight all the complexities and subtext of Pinter’s work, allowing the audience to be fully engaged and tense throughout the whole performance.

Matt Plampton

12 October 2012

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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