Pinter Two: The Lover/The Collection at the Harold Pinter Theatre
Pinter at the Pinter is a revival of the playwright’s work in a series of eight plays. Pinter Two is a set of one-act plays The Lover and The Collection, originally written for television, which discuss the power relations embodied in the sexual desperation that lurks beneath.
Reputedly the master of menace and that disconcerting pause that speaks louder than words, Pinter’s subtlety reveals a sharp eye for criticism of the English middle-class, the question of imagined superiority and the insecurities ensuing from the desperation to maintain appearances. The works are surreal, sinister, satirical, seductive and superbly funny.
The Lover reveals the need for fantasy and role-playing to make a marriage work. Jamie Lloyd’s production casts Hayley Squires as the quintessential good wife (Sarah) in Soutra Gilmour’s set design of a pink 60s retro kitchen. The good wife swiftly becomes the salaciously sexy mistress dressed in slick black.
Richard’s (John Macmillan) comment about the strangeness of women is hilariously delivered as at odds with his own mental turbulence due to fears that, in succumbing to the erotic fantasy, he is losing his identity as a husband. This is pronounced against Sarah’s calmness and adaptability.
The Collection, featuring two couples, discusses the insecurities of a husband traumatised by the news of his wife, Stella’s (Squires), infidelity, which becomes irrelevant as James (Macmillan) succumbs to the homoerotic temptations of Bill (Russell Tovey). In the style of Pinter, both plays are a tribute to female empowerment and durability.
Furthermore. The Collection seems a suitable name for a piece about a sensationalist bit of information that is reinterpreted, misinterpreted and complicated within the collective until the truth is lost in the shadow of nuances that define their interaction. Hence, what matters is not Stella’s infidelity but James’s response to the temptations of the “slum slug who slides his slime everywhere” – David Suchet plays a vindictive aged lover with a firm sense of sexual ownership, who is betrayed by his partner’s supposed promiscuity.
Revealing no hint of support for the crude investigations, Stella’s indifference to the games of men once again reveals the female superiority in an age of role-playing and insecurities. In the end, Bill reveals that they “never touched”, they “just talked about what they would do”. This sums up the theatricality of life based on perception. It is also a tribute to the work of theatre that in design and script can move audiences to entirely new places of wonder.
Photo: Marc Brenner
Pinter Two: The Lover/The Collection is at the Harold Pinter Theatre from 13th September until 20th October 2018. Book your tickets here.