The Caretaker is a play that only takes place in one cluttered, neglected old room – so set designer Kaylie Joy Black clearly had a riot extending this into the audience space of the Lantern Theatre, which proves an ideal venue. As the tarpaulins and magazine artwork extend out into where we sit, the Pinter classic is more up close and personal than ever before.
The famed meticulousness of the text is matched by a very impressive attention to detail from Purple Coat productions, from the convincingly dusty clutter all around, to the worn and moth-eaten costumes – and not just on Davies the tramp. It’s a talc-in-the-hair job for Jack Murray as the mysterious stranger taken in by two brothers, to seemingly unclear ends; but while he may lack the genuine wrinkles for the part he makes up for it with an assured and considered performance, riddled with tics and coughs as a shorthand for a life’s struggle.
Who Davies is, where he’s come from and where he may be going are all moot points; in addition, there is the relationship between the two brothers to consider. There appears to be little love lost between awkward Aston (Karl Falconer, also Purple Coat’s artistic director) and louche Mick (Stewart McDonald), who both have their reasons for keeping the stranger around.
Falconer and McDonald each excel; the former’s climactic monologue about his time in hospital made for a real hold-your-breath theatrical thrill, as the lights dimmed to a spotlight as the dreadful tale went on. The latter’s explosion of rage, taken out on a little Buddha on the side, was visceral and even more scary given his proximity to the audience.
Some 50 years on and The Caretaker is as perplexing and absurd as it ever was; this was a tight and well-realised production under director Siobhan Crinson.
Picture by Nightwolf Media
There is a final performance of The Caretaker on Saturday (May 3).