Fifty years on and Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker still has the power to unsettle. Nothing much happens after Aston rescues Davies from a brawl and allows him to stay in the derelict house which turns out to be owned by his brother, Mick. It’s the weird power game between these characters who live in their separate no-man’s-land that continues to exert its fascination.
Richard Stemp (Aston) in The Caretaker at Norwich Playhouse Photo: Sheila Burnett
Nicholas Gasson as Davies, Nicholas Gadd as Mick and Richard Stemp as Aston permeate the atmospheric set provided by designer Geraldine Bunzl. All piled boxes, ancient blankets, derelict gas stoves and dusty corners, it towers over and around the trio who hardly notice how depressing and awful it is. Each wants to leave but each knows subconsciously that they’re unable to muster the required energy and willpower to effect change.
The tramp Davies who wants to get back to Sidcup to collect his ‘papers’ is excellently performed by Gasson. At first, downtrodden by Mick, he manages the transformation to persecutor very impressively when he learns of Aston’s undefined mental problems. Stemp in a low-key, understated performance is convincing as the wistful, gentle but ineffective Aston. He flares up but once and it’s a memorable moment. Gadd is menacingly flash as Mick. He relishes his hold over both men but is nevertheless vulnerable too.
I grew up in the part of north London that was also Pinter’s background. I have caught the 581 and the 38a buses but have never been to Sidcup nor painted my room teal. Revisiting the area mentally was surreal.