The Caretaker - London Classic Theatre

Chris TracyNorwich PlayhouseChris Tracy

Norwich Playhouse

It is 50 years since The Caretaker catapulted Harold Pinter into the front rank of 20th century dramatists. A grimly humorous study of power and isolation, London Classic Theatre's revival of their 2004 production is the centrepiece of the company's tenth anniversary year.

Leading dingy lives in a derelict house, two brothers are sustained by thoughts of the future.

Quiet, damaged Aston plans to tame the garden and build a shed, while canny small-time builder Mick hopes to transform the place into a smart bachelor pad. When Aston offers a bed to feckless tramp Davies, the scene is set for a tortuous battle of wits.

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Director Michael Cabot gets strong performances from a cast up to the challenge of conveying the complex emotions underlying Pinter's dialogue. Part Alf Garnett-like bigot, part washed-up music hall comedian, Nicholas Gasson's Davies is magnificent - by turns coarse, prissy and vindictive. Equally impressive is Nicholas Gadd as Mick. Whether rhapsodising about his plans for the house or expressing the pent-up frustration of a man who finds himself effectively in the role of carer for his older brother, his genuine menace and savvy are shot through with a touching vulnerability. If Richard Stemp is arguably over-reliant on a monotone blankness to convey Aston's fragility, it is a minor fault in an otherwise compelling production.

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