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Harold Pinter's breakout play makes it to Riverside
Harold Pinter's The Caretaker gets an all-too-brief outing at Riverside Theatres in Paramatta this February. It's the first Pinter play to be put on at Riverside and if the audience reaction to this production is anything to gauge, it won't be the last.
Pinter's breakout play is getting on now; it's about 60 years since it was first performed, but it has aged reasonably well with themes of family, power and identity that feel as strong today as ever. The play leans towards the absurd, and the premise is simple. A quiet, reclusive man called Aston rescues a homeless man from the streets and invites him to stay in a dilapidated building that Aston's brother, Mick, owns. Mick has his own aspirations in regards to the house, but is torn between them and protecting his emotionally damaged brother. Davies, the tramp, in turn, has his own ideas about the future and all three collide throughout the three-act play.
The play is co-directed (which can be a challenge in itself if the vision is in conflict) by Alex Bryant-Smith and Nicholas Papademetriou, who also play Mick and Davies respectively. Overall, this is one of the more cohesive co-directed plays I have seen with the two director/performers demonstrating a shared vision that remains consistent throughout the play.
The set and costume design by Stephanie Howe is beautifully done, with walls of cardboard boxes perfectly capturing the hoarding chaos in Aston's apartment. Her costume design is particularly impressive in her detailed interpretation of Davies' homelessness. The set and costume design are well supported by the lighting and sound designs by Sophie Pekbilmli and Glenn Braithwaite respectively.
Yalin Ozucelik as Aston is remarkable. His nuanced and subtle performance leaves no stone unturned in Aston's character. Ozucelik has the ability to convey so much without saying a word and his interpretation of Aston truly feels lived in.
Nicholas Papademetriou is engaging as Davies, with some of the funniest moments in the play. As the narrative develops, he also layers his performance with a menacing vibe as he transitions between snarling and charming and back again.
Alex Bryant-Smith is overtly threatening as Mick, and never quite nails the nuance that the other two actors bring to their roles. Bryant-Smith's Mick feels a little too contrived, a little too forced, compared to the intricate performances of Ozecelik and Papademitriou. Arguably, Bryant-Smith has a tougher job because he spends large chunks of the play offstage, particularly at the play's commencement. By the time he enters, we're already so invested in the Aston-Davies interactions that it is hard to breakthrough.
As an ensemble, the cast gel well together and keep the audience engaged through the play. It's an enjoyable to watch three actors with a strong handle for Pinter's unique style come together to present a memorable and well thought out piece.