Old Times by Harold Pinter.Papermoon production, directed by Geoffrey Borny. ANU Arts Centre Drama Lab, Wed. - Sat. 8 pm until 16th March, 1996. Amateur.
Here is an intelligent production of a very clever play, admirably suited to the Drama Lab. If you haven't seen what Geoffrey Borny and Tony Turner have done to turn the echoing chamber of the old rehearsal room into a terrific little theatre, go and see Old Times.
In this intimate and theatrically warm space, you will see Pinter treated the way he should be. Funny, though you know you shouldn't laugh. Sweetly sad in moments of remembrance. Terribly bitter when the truth cannot be avoided. Kate (Jenny Ongley) is married to Deeley (Tony Turner). Anna (Naoné Carrel), twenty years after sharing a flat with Kate, comes to visit her in the marital home. If anyone thinks that a twenty-five year old play about a time twenty years past couldn't be relevant now, think again.
Pinter, always the master of the pause, places the action in the country - a place of silence. "You can hear the sea sometimes if you listen very carefully", so different from the noisome pubs and parties of London where perhaps Deeley met Anna, though she says she doesn't remember. Where maybe Anna loved Kate in a way that Deeley finds disgusting. Where Kate allowed herself to accept Deeley even though she knew he took her as second-best.
It is in the silences, as the characters before us reflect on the possibilities and probabilities of meaning embedded in what has just been said, that we too become engrossed in their mind games. This very English play is like the Hampton Court maze. "I live on a volcanic island," says Anna, escaping into a blind alley from Deeley's pursuit. "I know it," he says darkly, entering from a side passage that takes her by surprise. Geoffrey Borny has been well served by all three actors. They have understood the twists and turns, revealing to us a maze which, despite our hopes and fears, seems to have no exit.
It is unfortunate that we use the terms "professional" and "amateur". These actors are not paid to perform, but they are surely not amateur-ish. From the very best professionals, I might expect some extra depth of menace and maliciousness from Deeley, some more light and shade. I think Pinter wants it, so we can fully believe in his breakdown when Kate finally proves her mettle. But Jenny Ongley and Naoné Carrel both show all the subtlety required of their complex relationships.
As education and entertainment, for both town and gown, this is an excellent production. I wouldn't miss it, if I were you.
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