The evening opens with Press Conference and proceeds with Precisely, The New World Order, Mountain Language, American Football, The Pres and the Officer, Death and One for the Road. After the interval we get Ashes to Ashes to conclude a truly powerful, moving and thought provoking evening of the most intelligent and incisive theatre I have seen in a long time - no real surprise as this is Pinter at his glorious best.
The thread that binds the evening is Pinter looking at totalitarian states, politics where the normal rules are abandoned in favour of suppression and evil. Mountain Language looks at what could happen if the culture and language of one people were suppressed by another - something that has happened time and time again over history and will probably happen again in the future - the dehumanisation of a people, their reduction to a sub-human status and the subsequent cruelty that can be inflicted. In New World Order we see two members of the state preparing to torture, for no apparent reason, a naked man - their laughter and pleasure is the most chilling part of it, they seem to only get upset when one of them mis-uses language rather than when they contemplate the horror they are about to inflict.
One for the Road is a play that I, and my close friend who was with us last night, have a particular soft spot for as we have played it ourselves - it is a cruel piece with a family being destroyed because of a minor incident involving their young son. It is unforgiving theatre, a hard watch, yet at no time fanciful - in a cruel state there will be people like this who take delight in the calm destruction of others for petty reasons. The interrogator's normality in the face of his victims' suffering is beautifully captured in this production.
The Pres and the Officer is an amazing short piece, comedic and chilling, our guest star was the superb Jon Culshaw, not sure if he is getting the whole run. This very short play was only discovered in 2017, nine years after Pinter's death, but it could have been written last week for any of the political satire programmes on radio or TV - Jon plays it as Trump and it is frightening to feel that the world actually has succumbed to the horror and stupidity that he foresaw. A gem of a piece.
Ashes to Ashes is a two hander in which a woman, reveals to her partner, through broken flashback, horrors in her past. The images are reminiscent of the holocaust but apply to any ethnic cleansing. It is a harrowing piece, full of conflict and unresolved questions - moving, sad and, in its way, beautiful. Paapa Essiedu and Kate O'Flynn are brilliant in this piece - understated and yet powerful performances that draw you in to their dysfunctional lives.
The cast for the evening includes Paapa Essiedu, Kate O'Flynn, Jonjo O'Neill, Anthony Sher and Maggie Steed. They do a superb job of bringing these pieces to life on a clever and versatile set. Direction by Jamie LLoyd and Lia Williams is tight and sympathetic to the pieces, bringing out but the comedy and the horror of these superbly crafted stories.