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Saturday, 1 October 2011

Victoria Station/ One for the Road, Print Room

Pinter is never easy to produce or perform, but the Print Room proves its worth with an affecting evening of two of the playwright's shortest pieces. One for the Road and Victoria Station have not been performed together since 1984, and though some may doubt the pairing, I thought it worked remarkably well. They are poignantly split by only a few seconds blackout.

This dark double bill will shock but is also surprisingly funny. Both plays focus around disturbing power struggles. For Victoria Road this is between Driver 274 and the increasingly frustrated cabbie controller who is unable to persuade his colleague to cooperate on a job. In One for the Road the actors are reversed and we see a more vindictive and scary partnership between victim and controller, a tale of torture. Rather more concentrated and uncomfortable than the first play.

The Print Room space has a sensible adaptability about it, which enables the theatre to produce highly diverse and ambitious productions every time. For these plays the room is cleanly set out in a minimalist fashion, a few necessary props become crucial to the action, and the empty space between allows the tension to hang in the air.

Keith Dunphy and Kevin Doyle are utterly mesmerising as the alternating duo. Both actors are able to switch, in an instant, to an entirely different character and frame of mind. Doyle, transforms from terrified and bewildered cab driver to sinister interrogator, questioning and terrorising Nicolas (Dunphy) and his family. While Dunphy goes from a commanding controller to a nervous bullied and beaten wreck in the second play. Anna Hewson adds another dimension with her painful rendition of the suffering wife, and Thomas Capodici is very convincing as the young son.

Press night was a roaring success, a completely full theatre (I was sandwiched between two other young reviewers) and a very positive and lively drinks party afterwards. Thanks to Jeff James’ insightful direction and a small cast of clever and committed actors, this double bill is fresh and exciting and brings a new perspective to two of Pinter’s rarely performed plays.

One for the Road and Victoria station will be at the Print Room until 1 October, and at the Young Vic from 6-15 October, book here.

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