The Caretaker remains a play for today

Abigail SaltmarshHarold Pinter is one of the most important playwrights of the 20th century and The Caretaker remains as relevant as it ever was, according to Michael Cabot, artistic director of the London Classic Theatre. See it at Norwich Playhouse this week.Abigail Saltmarsh

Harold Pinter is one of the most important playwrights of the 20th century and The Caretaker remains as relevant as it ever was, according to Michael Cabot, artistic director of the London Classic Theatre (LCT).

'I think it does still work very well on stage and still resonates with the audience,' he said. 'This comes down to the fact that it is well written and accessible. I think Pinter is one of the - if not the most - important playwright of the 20th century. In fact, I think in time he will come to be recognised in the same way as Shakespeare is.'

The Caretaker was first presented at the Arts Theatre Club in London. The original production, which also transferred to the Duchess Theatre, featured actors Donald Pleasence, Alan Bates and Peter Woodthorpe.

It focuses on Davies, an elderly drifter, who is given shelter by the kindly but vulnerable Aston.

He quickly makes himself at home in the squalid, junk-filled attic, but an uneasy peace is fractured by the arrival of Mick, Aston's quick-witted, streetwise younger brother.

As the shadows lengthen and the three men reveal more about the past and themselves, a battle of wits begins that will have irrevocable consequences for them all.

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Born in 1930 in east London, Pinter, who died in 2008, was a renowned playwright, director, actor, poet and political activist.

He wrote 29 plays, including The Birthday Party, The Homecoming and Betrayal, 21 screenplays including The Servant, The Go-Between and The French Lieutenant's Woman, and he directed 27 theatre productions, including James Joyce's Exiles and David Mamet's Oleanna.

This year, the LCT celebrates its own anniversary of 10 years on tour. To date, it has performed to over 300,000 people at more than 150 theatres and arts centres around the UK and Ireland.

The company, led by founder Michael, produces challenging, accessible drama and has explored the work of some of the finest playwrights of the last 50 years, including Joe Orton, Brian Friel, Frank McGuinness and Mike Leigh, as well as Pinter.

It has also staged more challenging work, with national tours of Bryony Lavery's Frozen and two UK

premi�res, Nightfall by Joanna Murray-Smith and Love in the Title by Hugh Leonard.

The LCT was last in Norwich in 2007 with Abigail's Party.

'It is my job to take the modern classic plays and to stage them again so they do appeal to audiences today. This one is a revival of an original production we did in 2004. Some of the cast are coming back to do it again and others are new,' said Michael.'Our aim really is to do it bigger and better than before. It was very successful for us before and we hope to achieve that again.'

The play stars actors Nicholas Gadd, who has appeared in television shows such as Sherlock (BBC), Homeland (Channel 4) and The Bill (ITV), and Nicholas Gasson, whose credits include television work Merlin (Shine/BBC), Doctors (BBC) and EastEnders, and most recently a stage production of The Picture of Dorian Gray at London's Greenwich Theatre.

Set in the 40s and 50s, and featuring carefully sourced original costumes, while remaining relevant it is also very rooted in the era in which it was written, stressed Michael.

But widely considered a landmark of 20th-century theatre, Pinter's compelling study of power games and loneliness still has the capacity to shock, amuse and fascinate.

'Mick, for example, is very much of his time,' he said.

'But this play has a universal appeal. It is relevant to people of all ages and I think there is a little bit of everybody up there on stage.

'As a playwright, Pinter dealt with the underbelly of society and really lifted the lid on dysfunctional families. What he had to say is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago.'

t Harold Pinter's The Caretaker is at the King's Lynn Arts Centre on Sunday, April 24, and at Norwich Playhouse on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 27 and 28. For more information or to book call 01553 764864 or 01603 598598.

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