The Birthday Party is Harold Pinter’s first play and this production is the first major touring revival in the 21st Century, brought to the stage by London Classic Theatre.
We join Petey and Meg at breakfast in their shabby seaside home, their life is mundane and full of routine. This is all about to be shattered as they are expecting two surprise guests at their ‘boarding house’. Stanley, their lone current boarder, eventually comes down for his breakfast. He is irritable and confrontational, even more so when he learns of these two new additions to the house. When the two strangers arrive, Goldberg and McCann, the purpose of their visit is unclear. That is forgotten when Meg announces it is Stanley’s birthday and Goldberg proposes a birthday party. From here the story descends further into confusion, fabricated stories, alternative names and a dark humour.
There are strong performances throughout from the whole cast. Meg (Cheryl Kennedy) appears to be in a world of her own sometimes, her timid mannerisms adding to the effect. The mysterious duo of Goldberg (Jonathan Ashley) and McCann (Declan Rodgers) provide a contrast to the dull surroundings; Goldberg is smooth and charming with a dark edge while McCann appears on the edge of losing control. The partnership and chemistry of Ashley and Rodgers is shown perfectly in the well timed ‘questioning’ scene where the script is fast-paced and at times bordering on nonsense. Gareth Bennett-Ryan plays the ranging sides of Stanley very convincingly; his performance in the latter half of the play is disturbingly realistic.
Although there were many confused faces leaving the theatre, I am sure fans of Harold Pinter will approve of this production. The performances and production values are solid. For newcomers I feel it is a good introduction to his work. Coventry is the last stop on the tour, catch it while you can.
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