Hilarity shot with dread: the unreliable voices of Pinter

Readings of Family Voices and Victoria Station

Trafalgar Studios

Performance date: 27 June 2013

Two short Harold Pinter plays performed by three fantastic actors are taking over the 50s institutional set of The Hot House this week at Trafalgar Studios. The divine Joanna Lumley, New Tricks’ Alun Armstong and Andrew Scott, the BAFTA award-winning actor who played Moriarty in Sherlock, tackled these darkly funny plays, which were originally written for radio. Honouring their origins, the two plays were performed as if being recorded for broadcast.

The first play, Family Voices, involved correspondence between a 20-something wayward son – Scott – who has moved out of home and into a bizarre boarding house, his increasingly anxious mother – Lumley, and a brief cameo from his father – Armstrong. Although the characters are apparently writing each other letters, the recipient never seems to have received any news from the other, perhaps an understated comment on family miscommunication. Scott’s reading was brilliant – hitting the humourous notes, with flashes of foppish hysteria. Lumley was likewise excellent, with her more grounded and exasperated calls to the MIA son.

Victoria Station, with Armstrong as a cab-controller and Scott as an unpredictable driver, had a much darker edge. The controller has a simple request for Driver 274 – to pick up a passenger from Victoria Station. But 274 is parked by a “dark park” and has a female passenger in the backseat who is not moving and with whom he has fallen in love… The controller becomes increasingly exasperated, and although there are moments of comedy, the story is shot with increasing menace. The role allowed Scott to demonstrate his wonderful versatility, this time adopting a version of his native Irish accent and affecting a laconic delivery style. I imagine the sense of dread the story involves would be even more heightened if it were just unpredictable voices in the dark, as on radio.

Readings of these two plays were a marvellous garnish to the excellent production of The Hothouse directed by Jamie Lloyd. Catch them if you can.

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