Beckett Friel Pinter Festival:
First Love and The Dumb Waiter
The Gate Theatre's “Beckett Friel Pinter Festival” is a case of little reckonings in a great room, offering a rare opportunity to see six shorter works from three legendary playwrights, all of whom have enjoyed a special relationship with The Gate Theatre over the decades. Ranging from a half hour to an hour in length, these six little wonders, along with two evenings of poetry and prose readings, should more than satisfy aficionados, as well as serving as an excellent introduction for those engaging with this theatrical holy trinity for the first time.
With two productions playing back to back most evenings, the festival’s opening week sees “The Dumb Waiter” by Harold Pinter pairing up with “First Love” by Samuel Beckett. This current production of “First Love” based on Beckett’s short story of the same name written in 1946 and published in 1973, was first produced as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival 2016. A labour of love for director Michael Colgan and actor Barry McGovern, “First Love” was a little hour of near perfection and certainly one of the Dublin Theatre Festival’s highlights.
Paired with Pinter’s 1957 play “The Dumb Waiter” the contrast raises some interesting questions, particularly around the similarities between Pinter’s early classic and Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot.” In both plays the mundane experience of two men waiting endlessly for who knows who to arrive with who knows whatever consequences, is built on a rich vein of absurdist humour in a script that is sharp, economic and brilliantly realised. In "The Dumb Waiter" hit men Gus and Ben indulge in conversations on crockery, dead cats and Aston Villa while they await news of their latest victim. Sequestered in a basement in Birmingham with tea bags but no gas, things take an interesting turn when the derelict dumb waiter in the wall starts sending down requests for food. Yet, throughout, there’s always a sense of menace and violence lurking just behind the humour.
Wonderfully playing with both words and silence, director Joe Dowling highlights the humour at the heart of Pinter’s taut script. While there’s still an undercurrent of menace present, it’s not nearly as pronounced as the humour. Indeed, Garrett Lombard as the younger, impatient Gus, and Lorcan Cranitch as the seasoned Ben, are often more compelling as a comedy double act than as a pair of villains, though both show flickers of danger when needs be. Francis O’Connor’s excellent set design captures the drab, dreariness of 1950’s England, ably supported by Jason Taylor's lighting design. Joan O'Clery’s simple yet effective costumes hark back to that era, with their neat and tidy, cheap suit and tie, polished shoes and white shirt sharpness, just a little dampened around the edges. The whole merges incredibly well in a deeply entertaining production.
Running till March 26th the “Beckett Friel Pinter Festival” continues with productions of Friel’s “The Yalta Game” and “Afterplay,” Beckett’s “Eh Joe,” and Pinter’s “One for The Road,” as well as two evenings of poetry and prose readings. What more could you possible ask for.
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