In a windowless basement, two hit men await their mark. And we watch them waiting. The tension between them is palpable, that of the audience just as much so. The air crackles with anticipation. And then suddenly, without warning, it happens; a resounding chorus of Happy Birthday fills the room.
Yes, Matthews Yard in Croydon has its drawbacks as a theatrical venue, especially for a play with such pregnant pauses and meaningful silences as Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter. So it is to the great credit of the two actors and the Dippermouth production team that, despite the slightly eccentric acoustics, the play was absorbing and gripping from start to finish.
Jack Gamble, as Director, has made wonderful use of the spartan space, keeping it simplistic and austere, with just a couple of beds and doors and the hatch of the eponymous dumb waiter. This reflects the minimalism of the script, which he also exploits perfectly; the silences and the spaces speak volumes to the audience and help the tension to build to its final explosive peak. The grinding screech of the dumb waiter itself is also exquisitely pitched so as to ensure that by the end it strops the nerves raw. Gamble is helped by the actors whose restraint, both in speech and movement, only hint at the boiling violence and fear underneath.
Adam Drew as Ben is clearly wound as tight as a spring right from the word go. His efforts to remain calm in the face of his colleague, Gus’ endless questions and trivial chatter are visible in the clenching and unclenching of his jaw and fists, and when he does finally snap and flare up you can sense how desperately he is trying to regain control of himself. Quentin Beroud’s Gus is an amiable innocent; he keeps him likeable and just the right side of simple. His deference to Ben and his battle with mounting suspicion are very believable and make him immensely watchable.
Both also show a deft hand with comedy; the scenes involving the dumb waiter are very funny and provide a welcome respite from the ever present sensation of claustrophobia and impending doom.
There have been many, various interpretations of The Dumb Waiter; is it a political statement about the nature of power, is it an analysis of the modern human condition, or is it merely an absurdist comedy? No definite answers are given. What Dippermouth has managed to provide is a play which will keep you on the edge of your seat, and send you out into the night thinking and questioning.
Review by Genni Trickett
The Dumb Waiter
Somebody’s days are numbered.
Locked in a windowless basement, two hit-men are awaiting their victim. Talking football, reading the paper, just passing the time till the kill…
The minutes slip by, then suddenly the dumb waiter whirs into action.
Pinter’s blackly comic masterpiece has inspired the works of Quentin Tarantino and Martin McDonagh. Now see the taut, atmospheric original in all its grubby glory.
Tuesday 18th to Thursday 27th February 2014
Matthews Yard Theatre, Croydon
Book tickets at:
Thursday 20th February 2014