Theatrical: ‘The Dumb Waiter’ by Harold Pinter


Judder Theatre’s latest production is Harold Pinter’s one act play ‘The Dumb Waiter’. It premiered in Chaplin’s Pub on Hawkins Street last night. I was in attendance.

Pub theatre – long a means of staging theatre in the UK – seems to be expanding in Ireland. It makes sense considering how prohibitively expensive theatre rental has become, coupled with the fact that most bars have an empty upstairs room that can house productions, and allows the audience to enjoy a few sociables after the show. Judder began life upstairs from Doyles on College Green. The new location in Chaplins is a more comfortable space and a pleasant place to catch a show.

‘The Dumb Waiter’  is one of Pinter’s best known early works. Written in 1957 it tells the tale of Gus and Ben – a pair of hitmen in a basement room waiting for instruction on what their next assignment will be. The building they are sitting in used to be a restaurant as the dumb waiter in the back of the room delivers occasional food orders to the confusion of the men. They sit and wait and talk.

In prime Pinter style it is up to the audience to interpret the meaning of what is happening. To fill in the blanks not explained by the text. I can’t reveal too many plot details as I don’t want to spoil it, but I left the play with lots of questions – about how aware the characters were of their situations and how this  informed their behaviour and motivation?

The dumb waiter of the title – does that represent the restaurant device delivering the food orders? Does it represesnt the characters waiting dumbly for instruction – which of course depends on how aware they are of their situation. So many questions.

The character of Ben is played by Vincent Patrick who is the more senior of the hitmen. At the start of the play he sits reading his newspaper – interested in the news, or avoiding Gus?

Gus (Philip James) is the gormless junior hitman. He begins by tying his shoelaces before bombarding Ben with questions as he attempts to make a cup of tea.

Both actors give fine performances that capture the confusion and frustration of the characters and the menacing predicament in which they find themselves. The space upstairs in Chaplins is suitably atmospheric and gives a sense of believability about the piece. The audience is in the round which lends the piece an intimacy and intensity.

The play (directed by Shaun Elebert) lasts a mere fifty minutes, but actually seems shorter as it holds the audience’s attention throughout. When you see as much theatre as I do, you’ll understand that this is no mean feat.

Running until Saturday this week and from Wednesday to Saturday next week, at Chaplins with a showtime of 6.30pm, do yourself a favour and go see ‘The Dumb Waiter’.


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