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The Caretaker at the Old Vic

Published 7 April 2016

What’s it all about?

An off-the-street oddball is rescued from a bar fight by the seemingly simple-minded, but benign, Aston. Invited to spend the subsequent night under shelter in his dilapidated apartment, Aston’s companion becomes the hotel guest from hell, instinctually digging his heels in and playing the fallibilities of his host against those of his brother, ambitious landlord Mick, to stall his inevitable departure.

Lined with hilarious surrealist humour, surprising heart and no dearth of threatening subtext, The Caretaker is a play about as Pinter-esque as they come: throw three sharply defined but utterly off-beat characters into a confined space, light the blue touch paper of conflicting purposes, and watch the darkly comic sparks fly.  

Who’s in it?

Timothy Spall makes a rare appearance on the London stage as the feral lodger Davies. The ultimate pragmatist, Spall’s rat-faced grafter battles, scraps and cheats his way through no small number of tense flashpoints, rattling off more inspired excuses – the dingy weather, the width of his shoes, the (*gasp*) horrors of checked shirts – than your average Premier League footballer. 

While Spall dances gleefully through Harold Pinter’s infamously sharp writing, George MacKay comes at it like a bullet train, with motor-mouthed Mick’s words flying forth with the unflinching aggression of a Gatling gun.

The yin to MacKay’s yang, Daniel Mays’ quiet, lumbering, pitiful Aston hides a sorrowful past, while at the centre of the chaos, Spall’s Davies plays the contrasting pair of brothers like a fiddle. The result is an ensemble piece of the very highest order.

What should I look out for?

Off-kilter characterisation that perfectly blends slapstick and wit. While there’s more than a touch of the Peter Pettigrews about Spall’s rat-like snivelling and scurrilous scrapping, it’s layered perfectly with an exuberantly eccentric portrayal; every shoulder hunch, roll of the eyes, loll of the tongue or exaggerated leg cross winking gleefully at the audience.

In a nutshell?

Pinter’s pointed power play is memorably revived at The Old Vic in a creatively characterised, hilariously sharp and absorbingly atmospheric production.

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Will I like it?

In The Caretaker, director Matthew Warchus and his brilliant three-pronged cast have succeeded in laying on an accessibly whimsical celebration of the eccentricities of Pinter’s lauded character-centred writing, while paying due homage to its more unusual and erratic undertones.

Go along and enjoy witnessing a playful, powerful and pertinent performance of a classic text.

The Caretaker is playing at The Old Vic until 14 May. You can book tickets through us here.

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