The Dumb Waiter at the Print Room
It almost seems that The Dumb Waiter might have been written with the Print Room in mind, such is the intimacy of the venue. A coterminous atmosphere is a prerequisite for showcasing much of Pinter’s work, and the audience finds themselves just a few metres away from the actors in this tense and instinctual production.
Ben (Clive Wood) and Gus (Joe Armstrong) are hitmen waiting in a dilapidated Birmingham basement for their instructions. Ben, the older of the two, is a calmer man; he reminds Gus that he is the “senior partner” of their violent union and issues instructions and advice to his protégée. Gus retains the impulsiveness and curiosity of youth, questioning – with cockney good humour – the ethical and practical mechanisms of their line of work.
Never one to play a straight bat, Pinter inserts an unforeseen element into the play when the basement’s dumb waiter interrupts the estuary wranglings of the pair. Orders for soup of the day and liver and onions start to be sent down and the incredulous duo becomes increasingly unnerved by this illogical interference.
A sense of conflict between the two is masterfully built up during the 50-minute play. Wood and Armstrong’s seemingly innocuous dialogue is infused with raw tension – the actors play off each other with such familiarity and understanding it seems incredible that this production has only just begun. Director Jamie Glover has utilised the Print Room’s rather industrial aesthetics extremely well; this is an almost perfect London directorial debut for him.
The Dumb Waiter is a truly timeless play. Although it premiered over 50 years ago, it is still as pertinent and absorbing as ever – for any Pinter fan this production is simply a must-see. Theatre-goers looking for something a bit different have the opportunity to enjoy a very personal form of theatre here and would be well advised to see it.
Guy de Vito
The Dumb Waiter is at The Print Room until 23rd November 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a trailer for The Dumb Waiter here: