Evans unveils his dark side in Pinter production

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Lee Evans, the star of comedies such as The Producers and There's Something About Mary, is returning to heavyweight theatre in a 50th anniversary production of Harold Pinter's play The Dumb Waiter.

Evans made his name as a stand-up comedian - winning the Perrier Prize at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1993 - and more recently in acting roles on film and stage, but gave a knockout performance opposite Michael Gambon in Samuel Beckett's Endgame two years ago.

He returns to the stage in Pinter's menacing story of two killers alongside Jason Isaacs. Isaacs was the leading man in the recent BBC drama The State Within but has also appeared on stage at the National, the Almeida and the Royal Court.

The West End revival by Sonia Friedman Productions will have a seven-week run at the Trafalgar Studios from 2 February.

The Dumb Waiter is the story of two killers, Gus and Ben, who are awaiting confirmation of the identity of their next hit. But their normal routine goes awry and increasingly strange orders keep arriving via a serving hatch - the dumb waiter of the title. Although written in 1956, the play was not presented until 1960 when the production at Hampstead Theatre Club in London helped to cement Pinter's growing reputation as a major theatrical writer.

The dark comedy has been often compared to the work of Beckett which may make Evans ideal casting. Paul Taylor, The Independent's critic, described him as "a revelation" in the role of the crippled servant in Endgame.

Yet Evans admitted at the time that it was a challenge, even for a man who had wooed Hollywood with his performance in There's Something About Mary alongside Cameron Diaz.

Stand-up was originally his forte. After winning the Perrier Award, he sold out the London Palladium and performed several sell-out runs as a stand-up. He became the first solo comedian to play Wembley Arena in 2002 and the video/DVD from the show reached number five in the UK charts, selling more than 800,000 copies. On television and film, he appeared in his own show and period dramas including The History of Mr Polly.

But Endgame was his first straight role on stage. When it was pointed out to him that Beckett was scarcely beginner's stuff, he said: "I know! What the hell am I doing? But I've loved him since I was a teenager and I really like all the questions he asks about life."

Isaacs' career is almost as diverse with film work in The Patriot opposite Mel Gibson, Black Hawk Down directed by Ridley Scott, and The End of the Affair, opposite Ralph Fiennes and Julianne Moore.

They will be directed by Harry Burton, a long-term collaborator with Pinter who is also working on a programme about the 76-year-old playwright for the More 4 television channel.

Previous productions of The Dumb Waiter include a 1987 film directed by Robert Altman with John Travolta and Tom Conti. More recently, the actor Douglas Hodge directed a production at the Oxford Playhouse with Toby Jones, who appeared in The Play What I Wrote, and Jason Watkins. The original cast was Nicholas Selby and George Tovey. Pinter remains a vital force in British theatre whose works are regularly revived. As an actor, he gave a memorable performance of Samuel Beckett's monologue, Krapp's Last Tape, at the Royal Court last year.

Comments