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The Lover/The Collection review at Comedy Theatre London

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This neatly paired double bill of short Harold Pinter plays caused a stir when first aired on television in the early sixties.

There is still something of the crackling menace, sense of intrusion and exposure of human weakness to get the juices of any Pinter fan going, but seen in the sharp light of today’s more sexually liberated age they seem strangely dated.

In the first, The Lover, Richard Coyle plays a husband who breezily (and hilariously) chats about the lover his stay at home wife (Gina McKee) is about to entertain that afternoon – the joke being that it is actually him in role play. It is a well-nuanced little piece, well acted and beautifully lit (it is almost as if real sun is flooding into the bedroom). But one cannot help feel how anachronistic it all is – stay at home wives, tea-times and commuter timetables and the rather tame nature of the sexual fun and games. Also, forget his famous pauses for a minute, there is something about the declamatory nature of Pinter’s dialogue that has always grated with me and the 45 year gap since it was first performed doesn’t help much either.

In the second play, The Collection, a bisexual lodger (Charlie Cox) is (to use that word again) menaced by a jealous husband who wants to confront the male dress designer he believes has had it away with his wife during a business clothing work trip to Leeds.

As the lodger’s landlord and (one surmises) lover, Timothy West puts in a superb performance, frustrated, hurt, bitterly angry but also exerting an eerie control. His denunciation of his charge as a proletarian “slug” will send shivers up your spine and never has the word “solace” been so chilling on a stage before.

But yet again, there is something rather old fashioned in the way all these people carry on – slurping inordinate amounts of whisky and, despite all the impending violence, remaining pretty good sports about the whole thing. The emotional landscapes may be recognisable but times have moved on.

Production Information

Comedy Theatre, London, Author: Harold Pinter

Director
Jamie Lloyd
Cast
Richard Coyle, Gina McKee, Charlie Cox, Timothy West
Running time
2hrs
January 15-May 3

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