The Hot House
Performance date: Tuesday 6 May 2013
The Hothouse, written by Harold Pinter in 1958, first performed in 1980 and currently revived at the Trafalgar Studios, is an enjoyable romp. If you can handle your romps peppered with electric shock therapy, suggestions of doctor-patient rape and an overarching sense of menace.
Simon Russell Beale brilliantly portrays Colonel Roote, the director of – a rest home? an asylum? – seemingly without a clue of what is going on. It’s Christmas Day and somehow, Inmate 6457 has died and Inmate 6459 has given birth. Ambitious upstart Gibbs, played with pencil-necked precision by John Simm, seems to be sorting things out. But who are the patients really? And who are the staff?
Brilliant dialogue and pitch perfect delivery by the cast directed by Jamie Lloyd makes a play about a sinister State institution under the control of a cracked dictator more hilarious than it has any right to be. Pinter done badly can be dire (eg, the MTC’s production of the Birthday Party in 2009), but when done like this it is a treat. It was perhaps understandable that on the night I saw it, John Heffernan in the role of Lush had great difficulty keeping the laughs under control as Beale, Basil Fawlty-style, stole the show. Highly recommended.