Caretaker, Lyttelton Theatre, London, May - June 1981
Mick - Troy Foster
Aston -Oscar James
Davies - Norman Beaton
Directed by Kenneth Ives
Settings - Eileen Diss
Costumes - Lindy Hemming
Lighting - Mick Hughes
Marvellous Pinter in Another Colour
Review by John Barber
The three actors who are performing The Caretaker at the
Lyttelton are all black. This brings an altogether new flavour an
altogether new flavour to a marvellous play. The humour seems more
acid and the sadness becomes fierce.It is just 21 years since Harold
Pinter created that junk-filled and derelict suburban room and the
odious tramp Davies befriended by the dim-witted but kindly tenant
who gives him a bed and then slowly realises his protégé
is a malicious, lying ingrate with no trace of a talent for sharing
There is a lifetime of squalid guile in Norman Beaton's Davies.
But the actor also makes us see how pitiable the creature is, as
he desperately struggles for the caretaker's job by making trouble
between two brothers, his benefactor, Aston and the teasing, viciously
cruel Mick, owner of the house.
Some of the verbal subtlety of Pinter's chamber music is lost when
the three characters' idiom acquires Negro rhythms. The author looks
at speech as a constant stratagem to cover nakedness, and sometimes
a sly,anguished or mocking smokescreen. Here the stratagem is at
times too blatantly violent and the smokescreen so dense as to become
But the fact that they are black gives an added vigour to Troy Foster's
jumped-up slum careerist and seems to add to the dumb dignity of
Oscar James's lobotomised Aston.
The dialogue also acquires an ironical comic slant
from the trampís scornful references to the dirty blacks downstairs
who foul up the lavatory.
But Pinter's intentions are honoured: Mick's talk of bus routes
covers his vicious purposes, while Davies's confusions about his
name and his lost 'papers' in Sidcup betray a mind in delinquence.
What impressed me most was Mr. Beaton's presentation of Davies as
a victim. Standing silent with the face of a wrinkled monkey, clutching
the bag of his belongings under his arm, his hoarse voice grates
out, just before he is finally evicted. 'What shall I do? Where
am I going to go?'
There is no sentimentality in the performance. The
questions are urgent. And their effect is piercing.The direction,
by Kenneth Ives, is somewhat slow-paced but it is somewhat slow-paced
but it is full of delectable comedy. And, as always when well done,
the play remains a masterpiece.
The Daily Telegraph, 27th May 1981