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No Man’s Land at Wyndham’s theatre

First Published 21 September 2016, Last Updated 30 May 2018

What’s it all about?

A Harold Pinter play based on control. When the ageing Hirst (played by the one and only Sir Patrick Stewart) invites fellow writer Spooner (the one and only Sir Ian McKellen) back to his Hampstead home, and the alcohol begins to flow, it soon becomes clear that the relationship between the two is a pendulum of power which swings between them, an uneasy accord masking a slowly ticking time bomb of subtle digs and blustering boasts.

In the midst of their titanic verbal spar, the duo cut into one another’s thoughts on marriage, sex, philosophy, intelligence, honesty and, ultimately, age – before the sudden return of two younger men, Foster and Briggs, ratchets up the tension further.

Who’s in it?

Having performed the play to critical acclaim and sell-out audiences on Broadway in 2013, Sir Ian and Sir Patrick accompany Director Sean Mathias to Wyndham’s Theatre for its West End transfer, bringing their captivating brand of stage acting back to London. The two old friends are on supreme form, delivering intricate, poetic lines with world-class flair and finesse; you can’t help but be completely transfixed by their mesmerising control of an auditorium.

They’re joined by newcomers Owen Teale (of Game Of Thrones fame) and Damien Molony (Being Human, Ripper Street), who play menacing duo Briggs and Foster respectively. Circling Spooner like vultures, it’s hard not to feel intimated by their sheer presence alone, both actors seizing their opportunities to command events on stage with aplomb.

What should I look out for?

The thrilling feeling that you, and the four men on stage, have no idea what will happen next. Pervaded by tension, the control of scenes switches rapidly between characters as they themselves swing from threatening to boastful, and from serenity to sadness. You’ll constantly be second-guessing the play; listen out for the two or three extra words in every sentence which make a huge difference to their meaning.

A masterclass in performance, with lines delivered with superb variation in pace and exquisite timing; this is Pinter’s writing at its sharpest, and it’s delivered suitably cuttingly.

A deceptive serving trolley, winning a chuckle from the audience both simple in execution and brilliant in detail.

In a nutshell?

Full of spellbinding moments, this is a poetic, contemplative, and provocative exploration of two men stranded in emotional and cognitive No Man’s Land.  

What’s being said on Twitter?

Will I like it?

No Man’s Land isn’t always an easy play to follow, being largely rooted in the language of verse and metaphor, but it’s almost impossible to tear your eyes from.

Led by two performers of a world-class calibre, who somehow surpass the anticipation of the audience, and complemented by two equally fine supporting actors, the result is an enthralling, fascinating and contemplative evening of both witty laughs and uncompromising truths. One thing’s for sure: every audience member will take something different from Harold Pinter’s inimitable power play.

No Man’s Land plays at Wyndham’s Theatre until 17 December. We spoke to Sir Ian, Sir Patrick and Damien following the show; click here for their thoughts on the production.

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