Thursday, July 18

The Dumb Waiter – Hope Street Theatre

Moxie on Fire are certainly that with their production of Harold Pinter’s classic one-act play, considered to be one of his best, and certainly one open to much interpretation depending on who you talk to, with director Kaitlin Howard successfully navigating the potential pitfalls whilst still leaving us with plenty to reflect on at its conclusion.

Gus (Gareth Llewelyn) and Ben (Richard Cottier) are hit men who are holed-up in a dingy basement kitchen, waiting to be sent out on their next job. Even from before the start of the play it is clear that Ben is the more senior of the two as they lie on their respective beds – Ben reading the newspaper, Gus seemingly asleep.

The unravelling scene captures the uneasy frustration between them as they wait for instruction on their next victim and the contrast in their characters is more bleakly observed: Gus is clearly unsettled in his work and more at home with the comfort of a cup of tea and a biscuit. Ben on the other hand is more edgy and with an inside line, apparently, to the unknown boss, a man quite content to just follow orders.

The staging has rightfully been kept simple and with costume very much evocative of the period, stage manager Bella Burton cleverly incorporates the dumb waiter without distraction. Whilst the writing hints at where this might be going, Howard successfully orchestrates the growing suspense as the characters’ bemusement fizzles into something more physical although it remains nigh on impossible to anticipate the surprisingly shocking outcome that is in store.

There are strong, credible performances from both Llewelyn and Cottier in this psychological drama, and with absurd and farcical elements littered throughout, they find the right balance in delivering its dark humour to elicit our laughter whilst maintaining believable characters whose actions keep us riveted on the edge of our seats.

There were a couple of minor things – not unusual for an opening night – which didn’t detract from the overall performance. I’m assuming the background music playing as the audience came in was unconnected to the production; it was certainly too modern but there could be an opportunity for the company to use something more fitting to the period to really draw us into the drama as we take our seats.

Moxie on Fire appears to be a new company, but Howard, Llewelyn, and Cottier certainly have a wealth of experience between them, with this a thoroughly enjoyable production, and I look forward to seeing what they do next.

The Dumb Waiter continues its run at Hope Street Theatre on 7th and 8th June at 7.30pm. Tickets are available via https://hopestreettheatre.com/whats-on/

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 6th June 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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