Play of the week: The Hothouse, Trafalgar Studios, London SW1


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The Independent Culture

Simon Russell Beale transforms into a manic version of Ronnie Barker in this merciless, very funny revival of Harold Pinter's second major stage play.

Russell Beale is a goggle-eyed ex-colonel, Roote, with a mean moustache and a club tie, presiding over some kind of rest home, or rehabilitation centre, where things spiral out of control on Christmas Day.

It emerges in an exchange with his sidekick, Gibbs (played with chilling understatement by John Simm), that one patient has been killed, and another has given birth to a boy. Jamie Lloyd's production picks up on the play's comic implausibility: Kafkaesque creepiness is up front and grand guignol.

0844 871 7632, to 3 August