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Sunday, 18 December 2016

Views of No Man's Land

On 15th December, a remarkable live broadcast of the National Theatre's production of Pinter's play. The close-ups showed fine acting business beyond the experience of all but the front rows at Wyndhams' Theatre - and the occasional well-disguised mishap.
Read no more if you plan to see the play and wish to form your own view.

A stark first half was followed by fine comic display by the cast of four, the play closing with a return to themes implied by the title of the play. The Guardian's Michael Billington notes that the "beauty of Pinter’s play is that it is open to many interpretations and concludes that No Man's Land is "both desolate and funny and conveys, without peddling any message, the never-ending contrast between the exuberance of memory and the imminence of extinction." His earlier view was that play may give insight into dark professional fears of Pinter: the successful but lonely Hirst (played by Sir Patrick Stewart) the mirror image of failed poet Spooner (played by shabbily dressed Sir Ian McKellan). It less clear whether there is any autobiographical - or biographical - relevance to wealthy Hirst's two manservants, played with alternating menace, humour and compassion by Damien Molony as Foster and Owen Teale as Briggs.

A further obvious reading is that Hirst's distress is exacerbated by just-preserved insight into advancing disintegration of his mind - this evolving dementia perhaps accelerated by intensive use of a well-stocked drinks cabinet. Worth contrasting Pinter's reading with the formal portrayal of dementia by Florian Zeller in "The Father".

As shown in this production, No Man's Land, particularly given the historical setting of the play (mid-1970s), could refer to many taboo or inaccessible areas, ranging from the unwanted realms of dementia, dying and death, and to sexual politics, from homosexuality to (at least for these characters) the inscrutable minds of women.

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