The Caretaker - London 1972

Programme Cover

The Caretaker, Mermaid Theatre, London, March 1972

Mick - John Hurt
Aston - Jeremy Kemp
Davies - Leonard Rossiter

Directed by Christopher Morahan
Designer - Eileen Diss

Review by Michael Billington

The Mermaid has been going through a rough patch lately; but with this timely, beautifully cast revival of The Caretaker its star is back in the ascendant. The director, Christopher Morahan, has striped the work of that semi-religious awe we tend to bring to Pinter nowadays and chosen to play it fast, light and funny. Yet at the same time he shows a sure grasp of the playís essential themes: the threat posed by territorial invasion, the intrusion of the balance of terror into private relationships and manís inability to seize a lifeline even when heís sinking fast.
Morahanís production also brings out to the full the detailed naturalistic surface on which Pinter steadily builds; and proves, aided by a magnificent performance from Leonard Rossiter, that the itinerant Davies is one of the richest post-war theatrical creations. Shedding the remembered Pleasence inflections, Rossiter gives us a cawing, predatory scarecrow-figure whose hands seem to be forever fending off invisible weights, whose voice constantly aspires to a pseudo-gentility and whose being exudes a dynamic lethargy.
As his Arturo Ui and Fred Midway proved, heís an actor whose forte is the manic-grotesque; and he here achieves brilliantly funny effects by following the old chaplain technique of showing that dirt and delicacy are not irreconcilable. The tongue may be constantly probing the lower lip as if he were some obscene, hungry reptile; yet when a dust-covered counterpane is thrust into his mitts he handles it with almost feminine distaste.
But this is not to undervalue the beautifully grave calm Jeremy Kemp brings to the lobotomised Aston or the equivocal clumsiness of John Hurtís whey-faced Mick. But, above all, Mr. Morahan has done Pinter a great service by showing that his work is not holy writ and that the famous pause-and-effect technique has been much over-stressed. This is Pinter accurately realised and without a hint of pretentiousness.
The Guardian, 3rd March 1972
with kind permissio

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