Taking on a Pinter play, let alone one of his most famous works, is an ambitious prospect for any theatre company, and the director, cast and crew of this Apollo production have risen to the challenge admirably, capturing the essence and nuances of the work.
The decision to have an open set immediately presents the audience with the facade of an ordinary domestic living room and kitchen, which we learn is a boarding house somewhere on the coast.
The initial conversation between owner Meg and her husband Petey appears equally conventional, yet beneath the bland comments about the ‘nice’ breakfast and what’s in the paper, we sense a lack of real communication between the couple. Sue Edwards skilfully brings out Meg’s simplicity and delusions as she clings to familiarity, while Simon Cardew deftly shows Petey as apparently just as apathetic yet clearly more aware than his wife.
The appearance of their sole boarder, Stanley takes the atmosphere further into unconventional and confusing territory. In front of her husband Meg treats Stanley like a son, yet as soon as Petey leaves she becomes flirtatious. Stanley treats her by turns with teasing, cruelty and flattery.
The audience starts to wonder who he is. He seems to want to leave, yet refuses the offer of Lulu, a flirty young neighbour played by Ellie Warren, to do so. Pete Harris adeptly captures the conflicts and confusions of the main character.
The arrival of two more ‘guests’, Goldberg and McCann, throws the situation further into confusion with unexpected consequences. As Goldberg, Michael Arnell is by turns charming, sinister and menacing, in stark contrast to the open violence displayed by his ‘sidekick’, played by Colin Ford.
The limitations of human communication; the comfort we find in the mundane and our fear of change are explored; however, there are moments of comedy and warmth which serve as a foil to the inherent violence, uncertainty and chaos.
The ‘truth’ of is that there is no truth, only chaos and confusion from which we make order if we choose: and the other truth is that the Apollo Players have presented us with a highly entertaining production of this play.
The Birthday Party is on from Tuesday to Saturday 5-9 April at 7.30 pm.
Tickets from: http://www.apollo-theatre.org.uk/the-birthday-party/