There’s a moment right at the end of this production of One for the Road that is heartbreaking. On the page the finale comes across as callous laced with black humour, but Keith Dunphy as Victor turns it into what Pinter surely intended to present - the individual’s nightmare under repressive regimes everywhere.
A scene from One for the Road/Victoria Station at the Print Room, London Photo: Sheila Burnett
Dunphy’s incoherent despair beyond words is juxtaposed memorably with Kevin Doyle’s dead-eyed abuser, whose sudden outbursts of manic laughter are unsettling exactly because of his lack of empathy, suggesting the mania underpinning his government.
In what is claimed to be the first performance together of these two plays since their premiere in 1984, director Jeff James expertly controls the pressure cooker atmosphere in this intense venue, which is seemingly designed for minimalist masterpieces.
Starting with the lighter - but by no means frothy - Victoria Station, Dunphy plays an increasingly stressed cabbie controller, amusingly unable to fathom why number 274 (Doyle) is incapable of following a simple request to pick up at the eponymous destination.
With subtle power shifts aplenty, the most dramatic transformation is when Doyle’s hapless 274 looks down and then looks up to be reborn as the ultimate controller in the second play.