Theatre: THE HOTHOUSE Chichester Minerva Theatre
Friday 25 August 1995
What's surprising about The Hothouse, though, is not the atmosphere of mystery and threat generated by the setting, an establishment whose specific purpose is never revealed and whose unseen patients eventually massacre the staff; nor is it the play's political dimension. The idea that Pinter's dramatic imagination only contracted politics, as it were, in the Eighties cannot survive an intelligent reading of The Birthday Party.
No, what takes you aback, watching David Jones's incisive, darkly droll production, is the degree to which the young Pinter was prepared to revel in jokes - some of them endearingly ropey. Exploding cigars are, after all, pretty thin on the ground in the later plays, as are routines like the one in which the head of the institution twice chucks his glass of whisky into the face of Tony Haygarth's superbly laid-back, insinuating Lush, only to be outwitted on the third occasion when Haygarth, still imperturbably provoking, snatches the glass and holds it over his own head as a precaution.
Sporting a bristly moustache, the author himself plays Roote, the ex- colonel who has to resort to coarse bluster and violence as the grip of his authority over the home slackens. Though you feel at times that he's demonstrating the role rather than playing it, and that he doesn't have enough of a barmy edge as an actor, Pinter is often extremely funny. "Between ourselves, man to man, you're not by any chance taking the old wee-wee out of me, are you?" he asks his deputy, allowing just the right degree of disorientation to creep into the studiedly man-of-the-world menace. He shows you a figure whose soul has turned into a bureaucratic filing- cabinet, and for whom the birth and the death among the patients that have ruined his Christmas Day are essentially administrative hitches.
The rest of the cast is very strong. John Shrapnel gives off a wonderful aura of creepy repression as the blank-faced deputy for whom the massacre is, perhaps not accidentally, a major career boost; and Celia Imrie really puts the italics in fatale as the manipulative mistress-of-two-men. You don't get the sense, as you do with the best of this author's work, that the material has been refined to an almost myth-like essence, and certainly its parts, some of which strike you as gymnastic displays of precocious strength, are greater than the whole. It leaves you, though, in the novel and agreeable position of feeling almost bloated by a Pinter play.
n To 9 Sept. Booking: 01243 781312
Arts & Ents blogs
Under The Skin review: Scarlett Johansson is full-blooded as aloof alien
Doctor Who: Keeley Hawes to star alongside Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman
Boy George: Bad karma
Disney's Frozen is 'very evil' gay propaganda, says Christian pastor
Batman vs Superman costumes: Crotch must be 'appealing but non-confrontational', says designer
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
No EU referendum under Labour: Ed Miliband to reveal that vote on membership is ‘unlikely’ in next Parliament if party wins power
Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
Europeans have ‘got whiter’ due to natural selection in past 5,000 years, scientists say
Fracking is turning the US into a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia
How climate change helped Genghis Khan: Scientists believe a sudden period of warmer weather allowed the Mongols to invade with such success
- 1 Arrest made after man is found by the side of the road with his penis cut off
- 2 Girl found in the Amazon rainforest with neighbour Grover Morales after going missing for 7 months
- 3 Tim Berners-Lee on creating the web: 'I never expected all these cats'
- 4 Malaysia flight MH370: Pitbull song lyrics bear uncanny resemblance to missing plane mystery, according to YouTubers
- 5 First Kiss viral video was just a clothing advert starring actors