Producer Sonia Friedman described Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land as a “monumental work of art”, following the opening of the Rupert Goold-directed production starring Michael Gambon, David Bradley, David Walliams and Nick Dunning, last night.
“It’s like a great work of art,” the prolific West End and Broadway producer said of Pinter’s play. “You can look at it and hear it and each time you go back to it you learn something more. For me, it’s like a great symphony; it’s listening to Beethoven, it’s listening to Mozart, it’s all the different cadences, it’s all the different sounds, the tunes, the ideas. No one piece of music is the same in terms of the way you can interpret a great concerto, and it’s the same with Pinter, every time you come to it you get something different from it.”
Friedman spoke to Official London Theatre at the No Man’s Land opening night party held at Mint Leaf, when she revealed that it was her ambition to produce as many of Pinter’s plays as possible. “Ever since I started going to the theatre,” she said, “Pinter has been, for me, the all-time greatest playwright, not living playwright, the greatest playwright. He’s right at the top for me.”
No Man’s Land, the dark, menacing comedy set entirely in the drawing room of the wealthy Hirst, played by Gambon, is the latest in a string of acclaimed shows directed by Goold, following The Tempest, Macbeth and Six Characters In Search Of An Author. While the others had the distinct mark of the director running through them, Goold felt no need to tamper with this piece. The in-demand director told Official London Theatre: “This is really a writer and actors’ piece, the director really takes the back seat. That’s not totally true, but your job is to honour the play rather than to show off, which I normally do.” Speaking about the need to live up to his burgeoning reputation, Goold added: “I feel pressure to deliver for Harold, but I don’t feel the same gut-wrenching terror I feel when it’s something a bit more conceptually led by me.”
Gambon, described by Friedman as “our greatest stage actor”, was quick to praise the show’s director, but couldn’t restrain his legendary playful sense of humour, mocking Goold’s busy schedule, saying: “Rupert is a genius. He’s not with us now; he’s doing 25 productions in the West End so we don’t see much of him.”
The Gambon humour seems to run through the cast. Co-star Dunning said of his colleagues: “They’re appalling. They’re all ghastly. I hate them all, they’re horrible. They’ve got no sense of humour, no sense of fun at all. They’re very serious boring people… apart from that they’re wonderful!”
In addition to the schoolboy ribbing, the cast all share a reverence for the work of Nobel Prize-winning Pinter. “Every time we do this play, we find a new layer,” said Bradley. “We just find a different level because it’s so rich and deep and many layered. It turns on a sixpence; you find yourself laughing at it and the next minute you think ‘oooh, dangerous territory’. [Pinter] implies so much; he doesn’t over explain everything and I think he writes dialogue that actors love to say and relish.”
Dunning added: “He’s a really good storyteller; that’s what he is. You never know where you are. I think that’s brilliant. I think too often these days, with Hollywood stuff, you know exactly what’s happening. You predict it. You can predict the ending and you’re always right. With him you never know.”
No Man’s Land is currently booking at the Duke of York’s theatre until 3 January.