Talk of the town: Gambon is the Guv’nor. Just watching him get out of a chair will give you goosebumps

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The Independent Online

As I said to David Walliams after watching No Man's Land, the last time I saw a four-hander it was on YouPorn. Nay, nay, and thrice nay!

There's been much of a to-do about this latest production of Harold Pinter's classic, and with good reason: four pin-sharp performances (Michael Gambon, David Bradley, Nick Dunning and Walliams), a reminder of all that is bleak and tragi-comic and claustrophobic and difficult about Pinter's best work, and a memory jog back to a time (1974) when profanity on the British stage could still shock (and the C-words used in No Man's Land still cause gasps in the audience, albeit rather less amplified ones).

The audience at the Duke of York's was very 2008 though, being roughly split between the same people who go to see Pinter revivals whenever they pop up (and who never tire of hearing the C-word on stage), and star-struck civilians coming to see the country's favourite professional transvestite. The two women next to me seemed to shift in their seats a little whenever Walliams came on stage, and there was much conspiratorial nodding and giggling as well as some libidinous glances. And Walliams is seriously good up there, displaying exactly the right amounts of deference, sarcasm and studied menace; while Bradley (who many will know as Argus Filch from the Harry Potter films) is bewitching. And Dunning swears a lot.

Gambon, of course, is the Guv'nor, and just watching him get out of a chair will give you goosebumps. Never have I seen an actor so comfortable in his skin, and while I wouldn't want to demean his craft by repeating the age-old theatrical cliché that he could read the phone book and still keep us entranced, I'd certainly be prepared to listen to him read the classified ads at the back of The Spectator.

So there we are. Apologies for the opening sentence, but please take it in the spirit it is offered. When someone accused Norman St John Stevas of being a terrible name-dropper, he said, immediately, "Funnily enough the Queen said exactly the same thing to me last week."

Admittedly it's not Pinter, but isn't that why we go to the theatre?

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'

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