Review Roundup: Harold Pinter's THE CARETAKER at The Old Vic

By: Apr. 07, 2016
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Harold Pinters THE CARETAKER opened last night, Wednesday 6 April at the The Old Vic. Directed by Matthew Warchus, the production stars Timothy Spall, Daniel Mays and George MacKay.

Disturbed handyman Aston has invited an irascible tramp to stay with him at his brother's jumbled London flat. At first it seems that the manipulative guest will take advantage of his vulnerable host. But when Aston's brother Mick arrives, an enigmatic power struggle emerges between the three men that is in equal parts menacing, touching and darkly comic.

Let's see what the critics had to say:

Holly Williams, WhatsOnStage: Directed by Matthew Warchus, this is an exceptionally funny rendition of Pinter's blackly comic play. Rather than fastidiously approach the placement of each line, each non-sequitur or each seemingly irrelevant babbling rant about going to Sidcup or the route of London buses, Warchus inflates the characters' idiomatic delivery. The result often results in proper out-loud guffawing.

Dominic Cavendish, Daily Telegraph: George MacKay as a smooth, poised, leather-jacketed Mick elicits knee-jerk laughs - even applause - for taking his big deadpan addresses at a barely comprehensible lick, but we lose the inventive, wrong-footing particulars amid the deliberate haste.... Daniel Mays... achieves in Aston's slow-moving actions and speech, culminating in his sad, dazed recollection of his brutal psychiatric treatment, the most affecting moments of the night.

Patrick Marmion, Daily Mail: The play with the power to lure the star of Mr Turner away from film is Harold Pinter's breakout 1960 drama about an old dosser who pitches up in a grotty Chiswick attic. It's a part that Spall, who is also known for Fungus the Bogeyman on Sky TV, slips into like a pair of cheesy old slippers.

Ann Treneman, The Times: It's an exotic creature that we see before us, this old tramp going by the name of Davies, created by Timothy Spall. Pinter may have written the part but this Davies, so fastidious and at the same time so unkempt, feels like Spall's work... Matthew Warchus directs here and has done a good job of balancing out these three men. It would have been easy to let Spall take over with his mumbling tramp act, a shambling wreck with oh-so-pernickety ways.

Michael Billington, The Guardian: Watching Spall, I was reminded that I was recently twice conned by a man at the door seeking money first for a sponsored walk and then for a substitute latch-key. Spall, like my visitor, shows how the truly desperate often combine rat-like cunning with the ability to refashion themselves in the moment. Having no fixed abode, Spall's Davies lacks a definite identity so that he becomes whatever the situation demands.

Natasha Tripney, The Stage: This is comic strip Pinter. It's a lovingly drawn comic strip, performed with punch, skill and conviction, but it's still a comic strip. Matthew Warchus' production of Pinter's faintly absurdist 1960 play, The Caretaker, is one of broad strokes and ink blots.

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