BWW Review: NO MAN'S LAND, Wyndham's Theatre, 20 September 2016
Harold Pinter's No Man's Land returns to Wyndham's Theatre 46 years after it last hit the same stage. Redefined by the powerhouse duo of Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, this production is a rare autumnal treat that's bound to intrigue.
Framed by a projection of trees, Stewart's Hirst welcomes home an excitable, ever intoxicated Spooner after meeting him in a Hampstead pub. This first act gives McKellen room to shine as he bounds from whiskey to chair, spouting the delights of youth. Eventually Hirst is stirred to throw his glass and leave the room enigmatically. Spooner, now alone, is then confronted by the genuine youth of Foster and his intimidating friend Briggs.
Damien Molony gives a superb Foster, oozing charisma, flirting just the right amount to confuse both Spooner and the audience. Matched by Owen Teale's steely Briggs, the pair completes this quartet of excellence. The whole cast is a worthy ensemble, and regardless of your appetite for Pinter it's a pleasure seeing them flex their theatrical muscles and squeeze meaning out of every line.
The second act seems to bring a reversal as Foster and Briggs are revealed to be Hirst's apprentice and housekeeper respectably and Hirst himself returns to have breakfast with Spooner, who he now recognises. Stranger still, Spooner eventually plays along, allowing Stewart to come into his own. McKellen and Stewart's chemistry is unbounded and it's a joy to see two friends do what they do best.
The play itself continues to be enigmatic as the surrounding trees turn icy and the purgatorial no man's land is described. Sean Mathias's production switches between rallying wit and staggering imagery, shooting through the inconsequential, leaving you with a sharp taste to define. There are ample meanings to be discovered in this text, but you would struggle to see them delivered and interrogated more sharply than in this finely executed classic production.