The Caretaker

By Harold Pinter

The Wharf Theatre, Devizes

Until Saturday

The Caretaker is one of Pinter’s earliest plays and, despite a constant uneasy sense of menace which became almost a hallmark in his later works, it is fairly transparent.

It’s about two brothers and a tramp in a slum property which the brothers dream about renovating to luxury apartments. But dreams are all they have.

Davies, the tramp, played by Lewis Cowen who also directs, deludes himself that he can sort his life out, once he’s been to Sidcup to get his papers. But the weather’s never right for him to travel and he lacks a decent pair of shoes.

Aston (Pete Wallis) the older brother is an enigma. He’s kind to Davies and puts up with his ingratitude, but says little until a moving soliloquy about being incarcerated in a mental hospital and forcibly given electric shock treatment.

Younger brother Mick (Stuart Mayling) is thug-like and frequently seems on the verge of violence towards Davies and deliberately plays a power game with him, one minute offering him a job and friendship, and the next being outright hostile and threatening.

Each of them is dysfunctional and is never going to achieve the smallest of their goals. But still they believe they might and occasionally they connect with one another in a semblance of normality, only to drift off into their own private worlds again.

The dialogue is often repetitive with thoughts and sentences left unfinished.

Yet these three actors make each of the characters real, if sometimes slightly surreal. Lewis Cowen switches from a weasly, whining old man, to one oozing bravado and not a little spite, in a flash.

Pete Wallis achieves remarkable expression through body language, as his character is largely silent or monosyllabic.

Stuart Mayling contrives to suggest a vulnerability beneath his brash, bullying exterior.

In short they present complex individuals.

A lost line or two on opening night did nothing to detract from a thought-provoking and well paced production.

Jo Bayne