(Seen at the afternoon performance on 28th March 2019).
The first West End "season" of 2019 promised much. Plenty of high-profile
actors, with high-profile directors in highly-anticipated plays at high-West End
prices. For the monkey, this is the one and only play to truly deliver on all
Following the "Pinter at the Pinter Season" (itself a remarkable achievement),
this is the coda that frankly blows away everything before it.
On Soutra Gilmour's marble-walled revolve, relationships are equally circular.
Two chairs, a folding table, some glasses - and Jamie Lloyd demanding stillness
to match Pinter's autobiographical masterpiece pauses. That some clown's (now
happily executed, with luck) phone couldn't wreck one silent moment itself
speaks volumes for the quality of this production.
The acting in itself is breathtaking. Casting Zawe Ashton as Emma, the woman at
the centre of a triangle was genius on the part of casting director Jim Carhahan.
Utterly convincing as a woman men would indeed fight over, with underlying
anchoring keeping herself above it all yet clearly emotionally enmeshed in
something even she doesn't truly understand is remarkable.
Around her orbit Robert (Tom Hiddleston) her husband and Jerry (Charlie Cox),
Robert's friend and Emma's lover. Hiddleston's core of remote selfishness hiding
a vulnerability and suppressed sensitivity impresses - his silent work when
observing is of equal concentration. Best of all, his clear diction and studied
mannerisms are entirely credible as a man of his class, status and profession.
Cox is not to be outdone. His own insecurity and manipulative selfishness (the
theme of the men in this play) are to the fore. A louche morality had the monkey
suspecting his enjoyment was as much about flouting rules as actual time with
his friend's wife. Timing and physical stance conveyed as much as words -
intellect belied sometimes by observable reaction.
A note too for Eddie Arnold as the waiter. Gaining sympathy and even a laugh
from the audience is an achievement in a small yet interesting role.
Stripped back in its vocabulary, stripped even further back in its presentation,
this is breathtaking sell-a-kidney theatre that delivers on its promise. If you
can spare a vital organ in exchange for a ticket, it's a deal almost to
5 stars, standing ovation.