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The Hothouse by Harold Pinter at the Trafalgar Studios, London

This weekend saw my very first experience of a Harold Pinter play, the world famous playwright who I literally knew nothing about. I presumed some highbrow theatery stuff, all stuffy and indigestable. I know not why, I just for some reason assumed too much. Famous theatre playwright I thought, not going to be entertaining stuff for a commoner like me. It'll be like wading through treacle!

How wrong I was! Funny, sharp, cool, black (very black) and just so much fun! A literally endless cascade of glorious dialogue creating a somewhat open play which could be interpreted in many ways. To find yourself laughing so much at a play which contains torture, death, rape and murder seems strange and when leaving the theatre I heard many discussions about the contents, many not getting it, many not liking it. It could certainly be a play best not viewed if you do not get very black humour, fortunately I have no problem at all with this type of material, and got it very much.

The cast were superb throughout. Leads Simon Russell Beale and John Simm bouncing off one another wonderfully. The quiet, but yes, sinister Gibbs (Simm) being the perfect foil for "Colonel" Roote (Beale) as the over the top, blustering buffoon who knows none of his patients and lacks understanding of the left from the right. Both leads are excellent in their respective roles, but I did fear for Mr Beale's back as he lay bent over his chair in one of the clever freeze frame moments.

John Heffernan playing the roguish Lush was highly watch-able whether if be for his snow observations or magical cake moments (you OK in the front row now?). While Harry Melling as the (very) unfortunate Lamb gave a glorious physical performance in his role as the socially afflicted and obvious target of Gibbs. The third of the main supporting roles was Indira Varma as Miss Cutts, who crawled and sexually taunted the men throughout the play. And yes Miss Cutts, I do find that you are feminine enough!

The two tiny roles of Tubb and Lobb played by Clive Rowe and Christopher Timothy (thankfully without a cows bottom in sight) were well played in their all too brief appearances.

The set design, much like the last few plays I have seen was once again exemplary, clean efficient and not too cluttered, with the added fact that the front few rows are effectively on the stage, the whole thing was a glorious viewing.

So to my first Harold Pinter? Wonderful, enlightening, not what could ever have been expected. All in all a glorious two hours of entertainment. Just as long as you like your humour dark, very dark.


The Hothouse runs at Studio One at the Trafalgar Studios, London until Saturday 3rd August.

The Hothouse, Trafalgar Studios

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