Moonlight, Donmar Warehouse, London

3.00

In the diary of her life with Harold Pinter, Must You Go?, Antonia Fraser says that she and HP were amused when, reviewing the first performance in 1993, I called for "hard-edged political plays" – which I didn't. Slightly put off by Moonlight's mist of poetic sleep-talking, I hankered for the "hard, cutting, political edge" of some of his shorter pieces like One for the Road and Mountain Language.

Moonlight is a 75-minute tone poem of death and dying, of family disintegration, of skewed remembrance of things past. But it's also a self-parodying ragbag of Pinterisms: the bed-bound, dying Andy (David Bradley) and his estranged sons (Daniel Mays and Liam Garrigan) carry echoes of The Caretaker. The sons speak in inverted commas, swapping society backchat like the old boys in No Man's Land. The bedroom bleakness harks back to A Kind of Alaska.

Nothing gels, no fault of the director, Bijan Sheibani, who conjures an eerie half-light, with bright edging, and underpins dialogue with a portentous rumble. There's an admission of the play's arbitrary, rambling nature in the opening line-up of the five family members in silhouette: they will live the dream, but only in bursts.

Daughter Bridget (Lisa Diveney) is now listed as "a ghost". Before wandering off into the jungle (of life and mental instability?), she is careful not to wake her mother and father who, when they look at her, she says, see all that remains of their lives.

Bradley breaks the ice, and licenses our laughter, with his first scoffing aside: "It's enough to make a cat laugh." Then, quickly, "Do we have a cat?" He is raging against the dying of the light while his wife, Bel (vocalised with velvet restraint by Deborah Findlay), sits passively at his bedside. The younger son is in a bed elsewhere, like a Dostoevsky dosser, while the elder generates cross-talk patter routines.

Andy spied on his wife and her lover in a restaurant, cringing behind a vase of flowers and The Brothers Karamazov. Bel's lover was "Rafe" the soccer ref, whose wife, Maria, was Andy's lover in the first part of their marriage; she was also Bel's other lover. Ralph (Rafe) gave the arts a chance after years at sea. For a time, it was all go: football, the arts, the odd pint. "I preferred a fruity white wine, but you couldn't actually say that in those days."

Ralph also says he fell dead at his wife's feet. So he's a ghost, too, though Paul Shelley is as pleasingly fleshy as Carol Royle's Maria is fussingly proud of their own children. Andy wants only to see his grandchildren. And to have a drink. Bradley rises, crosses the room and pours a tumbler. "Bollocks to the lot of them, bugger them all. Cheers."

One riff about Bel giving Andy her body – "Here you are, here's my body, you said" – is pure Dudley Moore, just as the elder son's analysis of the life of Riley, which Andy led, reminds you of Pinter's origins in revue writing. But it's all a bit like an old motorbike spluttering into gear without roaring into action. The poignancy of Andy facing death in a moonlight with no cloud is dramatically fake, too, something clamped on, however personal to Pinter himself.

To 28 May (0844 871 7624; www.donmarwarehouse.com)

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before