Pinter Three, Harold Pinter Theatre

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by Meredith Jones Russell

Tamsin Greig steals the show in the star-studded third instalment of the six-month season of Harold Pinter’s short plays.

Pinter Three features 11 plays, allowing director Jamie Lloyd to vary tone, pace and style with shorter, more amusing sketches bookended by two more heavyweight works; Landscape and A Kind of Alaska.

Greig shines in these two longer pieces. Landscape is a quietly tragic portrayal of what seems to be a married couple, speaking next to but never fully to each other. While their words and memories sometimes overlap, they never connect and mostly exist in their own worlds, running on parallel lines. Greig, as Beth, delivers a touching and vivid recollection of a day spent on a beach with an unidentified man who she asks to have a baby with. She speaks with a gentle Irish lilt into a microphone, staring out at the audience, while Keith Allen as Duff, in brash Cockney tones, tries increasingly aggressively, and unsuccessfully, to communicate with her.

This idea of failing communication runs through a number of the other pieces. In Apart From That, Lee Evans and Meera Syal deliver an amusing take on phone communication as interlocutors who never really say anything at all, while in That’s All Evans, Allen and Tom Edden are gossiping women discussing trivialities; we are never sure quite what or why, and in Night, married couple Syal and Edden tenderly dispute their memories of a moment in their past.

The meatiest piece, A Kind of Alaska, rounds off the collection, and it is Greig who gets the meatiest role. As Deborah, a woman who is awoken from some kind of coma-type sleep after 29 years, Greig speaks in the high register and with the illogical contradictions and stubborn naivety of the child she was before. It’s a haunting piece about identity, loss and relationships and Grieg dazzles.

A word, too, for Tom Edden, who brings the house down with a manic, apoplectic performance of the 1995 monologue Girls. While the arguably better known Allen and Evans are the star draws here, the latter’s performance in particular verges at times on a kind of Little Britain style of dated British comedy. Edden, in contrast, is sharp, spiky and hilarious in all his roles here, bringing out every bit of the wit, quirk and genius of Pinter’s words.

Note: Penelope Wilton will make a guest appearance at 12 performances of Pinter Three to deliver the monologue Tess, written for her by Pinter in 2000.

Pinter Three runs through 8 December.

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