Pinter Six, part of Jamie Lloyd‘s Pinter at the Pinter season, features two of Harold Pinter‘s comedies: Party Time and Celebration, two contrasting scenarios but with subtle similarities. The interchangeable cast comprised of John Simm, Phil David, Eleanor Matsuura, Celia Imrie, Katherine Kingsley, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Gary Kemp, Ron Cook and Abraham Popoola, create a vast range of characters from all walks of life, with vibrant conversation and a pun up every sleeve to shift the dynamic.
Lloyd’s respect for Pinter’s text is a treat. The actors deliver the witty conversational digressions with great pace, without forgetting the reasons behind them. Lloyd respects the punctuation as intended by the writer; earning every pause with the fast and fun interchanges leading up to the moments of uncertainty resulting in long and dangerous rewards, particularly well-executed by the whole company.
Party Time opens on a black-tie formal party, hosted by, and most likely for, the corrupt and the costly. With elegant received pronunciation and facade covering facade, the clients mingle in a multifaceted existence. The existential question of ‘what is all the small talk for?’ is prevalent. I particularly enjoyed the sharp and clear frontage from John Simm, who reflects a lot of the bravado shared by the well-dressed audience as he discusses the magnificence of his social club; I can imagine not all too dissimilar from many an audience member.
On the other hand, in Celebration we find our ourselves in a buoyant restaurant for the anniversary of Julie And Lambert. The conversation brims with ignorant sexism, and the social ladder that the men, Lambert and his brother Matt, have climbed. Phil Davis’ comic timing is brilliant and, as they say, some people just have a funny face! The minimal space is a huge improvement to the previous shows in the Pinter at the Pinter season. With just a table and the surrounding space, the intimacy draws us in a lot more effectively and the lack of set is less of a distraction or lesson on craftsmanship.
Celebration, not just fun and games for the rich creme of the crop, presents a sad truth: the rich get richer and the poor, well, stay poor. However, it shines a light on the idea that money can’t buy happiness, as Popoola as the Waiter passionately describes the feats of his Grandad (which may or may not be entirely fabricated), and goes to a great efforts to find connection with people so unlike himself, while the rich, self-indulgent bourgeoisie assume it’s just money that he desires.
Both Party Time and Celebration are stories that are easy to understand both on and beneath the surface. Lloyd’s Pinter Six, with its all-star cast, manages to put across relevant messages whilst still respecting Pinter’s original text, and without patronising our intelligence.
Pinter 6 is playing until 26 January 2019. For more information and tickets, visit the Harold Pinter Theatre website.