Mastering pace and delivering the playwright's signature punch – Pinter 4: Moonlight/Night School
| By Kay Johal
Going to see a Pinter play is, of course, rather different from a night out at a showy West End Musical. One can expect thought-provoking theatre, exceptionally witty language and puzzling plots that never quite become totally clear in the end. Yet that is not to say that Moonlight and Night School did not enrapture the average theatre-goer simply seeking light(ish) entertainment. Indeed, the productions directed by Lindsey Turner (Moonlight) and Ed Stambollouian (Night School) as part of the Pinter at the Pinter series were accessible, pacey, and engaging – a great introduction for those new to Pinter’s work, yet still capturing the essence of a comedy of menace in a naturalistic and classic fashion.
Moonlight can be considered one of Pinter’s most accessible plays, dealing with mortality, memory, love, and separation. There’s an aching to connect at the core of the piece, which Turner expertly conveys through keeping Andy, the dying man, in his bed throughout most of the play; the sons being so close to their parents, yet never quite making contact. Indeed, the set itself was a triumph - intimate, naturalistic, and broody, perfectly corresponding to the atmosphere of the play whilst giving the actors enough room to play around with the space they were occupying. Soutra Gilmour’s costume design was equally admirable; the pastel blue and red of the suits worn by brothers clashing with the sombre black attire of Bel, and their smart, modern cut in stark contrast with Andy’s classic pyjamas. The dialogue was riddled with expert execution of the notorious ‘Pinter pauses’, and in general the play kept up a smart stride throughout. Robert Glenister (as Andy) can be considered a master of comic timing and articulation, whilst Brid Brennan (Bel) portrays moments of strength and stillness beautifully.
Night School exploded onto the stage in the second act, with the heavy drum beat and frantic dancing from Sally (played by Jessica Barden) both bewildering and exciting the audience. The use of the drums was startlingly effective and the stand-out aspect of the play: building tension, providing the sound effects and even becoming part of the set during the ‘club’ scene. The storyline and action are somewhat easier to follow in this play, and the pace of the piece and dynamism of the set certainly kept the audience engaged throughout. The chemistry between Brid Brennan and Janie Dee as the two aunts (Annie and Milly) was something to behold – and the source of much of the laughter from the auditorium. Indeed, the performances as a whole in this piece were excellent.
Full of colour, complexity and (sometimes dark) comedy, Pinter Four was a pleasure to witness. Staying true to a playwright’s signature style whilst creating engaging theatre in this modern world is not always so easily achieved, yet Moonlight and Night School rose to the challenge with grace.
Pinter 4: Moonlight/Night School is playing at the Harold Pinter Theatre through 8 December. The Pinter at the Pinter season is far from over, though. Don't forget to book your tickets to Pinter 3: Landscape/A Kind of Alaska/Monologue, Pinter 5: The Room/Victoria Station/Family Voices, Pinter 6: Party Time/Celebration, and Pinter 7: A Slight Ache/The Dumb Waiter.