Old Times - 1993

Programme Cover

Old Times, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 22 Oct - 20 Nov 1993

Deeley - Tim Pigott-Smith
Kate - Carol Royle
Anna - Estelle Kohler

Directed by Bill Alexander

Designer - Ruari Murchison
Lighting Designer - Tim Mitchell
Original Music - Johnathan Goldstein
Company Manager - Sally Isern
Stage Manager - Jane Appleyard

Review by Michael Billington
It's a long way to the coffee-table, said the lady behind me. She had a point. Watching Harold Pinterís tense, intimate three-hander, Old Times, in the big Birmingham Rep, is a bit like seeing Godot in Madison Square Garden. But Bill Alexanderís new production is so beautifully cast and so alert to every nuance of Pinterís power battle that we soon forget the open spaces of the fawn-carpeted circular stage.
On one level, it is clear what Pinterís play is about: possession and memory. Deeley, an apparently successful film-maker and the enigmatic Anna engage in a running duel over their ownership of the formerís wife, Kate. In the battle for supremacy, each character deploys memories, both real and invented.
Each new production adds its own emphases and, in Alexander's hands, the play also becomes about the rapid breakdown of the civilized veneer. Tim Piggott-Smithís excellent Deeley starts as a suave, smooth figure who, finding his queen under threat, disintegrates into someone coarse, brutal and terrified. His memories of meeting Anna become a savage attempt at humiliation. When he senses Kate slipping from him, he cries: ĎNo, no, they can't take that away from me, there is naked desperation in his voice. It becomes not just a play about male insecurity but about the fragility of the bourgeois concept of ownership.
In this production, the physical complicity between the two women is strongly established. Estelle Kohlerís Anna is a smiling, crop-haired predator who relishes the battle with Deeley, luxuriates in Kateís presence and claims: I found her with proprietorial emphasis. Carol Royle, while showing undisguised warmth to her old friend, gives a new spin to Kate by suggesting there is something about the characterís incuriosity. Normally, the play comes across as Kate's victory, in that she remains independent. Here all three characters seem locked into a permanent frozen solitude. Itís a sign of the production's quality that, without violating Pinterís verbal rhythms, it fines new resonances in this haunting play.
The Guardian, 2 November 1993

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