Venue: Ensemble Theatre (Kirribilli NSW), Oct 14 – Nov 19, 2022
Playwright: Harold Pinter
Director: Iain Sinclair
Cast: Darren Gilshenan, Anthony Gooley, Henry Nixon
Images by Prudence Upton
In Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker, an unhoused man Davies is given a place to live, but with stipulations attached. Brothers Aston and Mick are the homeowners, ambiguous or perhaps complicated with their intentions, in bringing Davies into their fold. First performed in 1960, Pinter’s play remains pertinent, especially for what it says about housing and property ownership, as they relate to issues of safety and of human connection. With home affordability ever worsening, the discord between have and have-nots is only escalating, and The Caretaker, proves sadly to still be terribly relevant.
The show however, is rarely a lugubrious experience. Under Iain Sinclair’s directorship, the meanings of Pinter’s writing are kept gently subsumed, as the exuberance of that characteristic mid-century English absurdist humour, is painstakingly amplified. The Caretaker in 2022 is not only more incisive than ever, it proves itself to be extraordinarily funny, even for out times.
Actor Darren Gilshenan is a wonderful presence as Davies, relentless in his need to offer amusement. No stone is left unturned, in Gilshenan’s pursuit of comedic impeccability, and we reciprocate with hearty laughter, for all two-and-a-half hours of his thoughtful buffoonery. Anthony Gooley’s immense restraint as Aston has tremendous, and surprising, pay-offs. The quiet strength he brings to the stage, adds a fascinating dimension, to an otherwise rowdy presentation. Henry Nixon is remarkably intense as Mick, highly satisfying with his bombastic approach to the material, but also able to demonstrate a great capacity for nuance and precision. These are three very impressive performances, blended perfectly to deliver something thoroughly entertaining.
Set and costume designs by Veronique Bennett, are proficiently rendered, to convey time, place and characters, with clarity and accuracy. Matt Cox’s lights and Daryl Wallis’ sounds add elegant touches, to a production that does not wish to reinvent the wheel.
We all know to treat people well, that we should afford dignity to one another in all our exchanges, yet generosity seems always to be a scarce commodity, in a world determined to relate everything to the bottom line. The men in The Caretaker are unable to find harmony; they want to take advantage of one another, and they want to bend others to their own will. This of the human experience however, is neither universal nor immutable. There are cultures and peoples who have done better, if only we had the wherewithal to take heed.