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The Caretaker at The Old Vic

Leigh Hatts

Timothy Spall maintains an extraordinary and convincing character as he imposes himself on a dysfunctional household in The Caretaker at The Old Vic.

Harold Pinter's bleak play had its premiere 56 years ago to the month.

The designer is often forgotten but Rob Howell, fresh from The Master Builder, should be praised for his set. The audience spends three hours looking at an attic room resembling a timeless snapshot from a Hoarders Next Door television programme.

During the evening numerous items are moved, plugs changed and at least one ornament damaged. The stage managers must work hard to reassemble the stage.

Hugh Vanstone appears to cleverly light the attic with one bulb.

Star Timothy Spall as the tramp is on stage the whole time giving what may well be the best interpretation of the Davies character. It is the hardest role with the hardest lines.

George MacKay plays the highly strung house owner and Daniel Mays is his good natured brother Aston.

The inability of three characters to communicate with each other creates a vital tension. Are they deceiving one another and themselves? Are they isolated?

Are mental health issues greater than at first suggested?

All three have just possible dreams which keep them going. What keeps the audience from going away when not much happens are the odd jokes and the question of whether there is a story and an ending.

This is another triumph for The Old Vic which, as it approaches its 200th anniversary, is even older and more famous than this play.

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