Deftly twisting Chapter’s ongoing redevelopment work for its own gain, the Welsh Fargo Stage Company’s take on Harold Pinter’s edgy one-act rarity transports you right inside its drafty bedsit basement seeing in the temporary Yr Llofft space. Visually, Dean Rehman (Ben) and Alex Harries (Gus) are expertly cast as at-odds hit men awaiting their next job, the former, a steely-eyed senior killer-for-hire, driven to distraction by his younger partner’s constant questioning.
The actors are already sitting in character as the audience files across the makeshift stage, a move that immediately invokes gritty realism, before the pair start to devour the often sparse script and somewhat farcical central scenes involving the titular dumb waiter. Harries’ slightly exaggerated Welsh lilt lends a genuine gormless air to Gus, upping the suspense as his partner’s patience wears even thinner. Rehman is also convincing, brooding and troubled by the drama that lies ahead. When the fleeting moments of near-violence do break out, the audience members find themselves jarred against the back of their seats, and the concluding twist is well-weighted.
Directed by Sarah Argent. Lighting design and Staging by Lee Grey. Sound design and staging by Anna Eveleigh. Scenic Artist – James Gardiner. Props by Steve Denton. Dumb Waiter built by Martin Harris.
The most recent “On The Edge” reading I attended, at Chapter, Cardiff was of “No Offence”, by veteran actor and author Terry Victor, who also directed. Described as a “comedy of terrors”, it depicts a small theatre company (“Fire On Stage!”) staging a provocative performance piece on the subject of censorship, which is eventually disrupted by agents of the repressive state. Very elegantly written, it ably satirises the self-importance of the artist, and skewers past injustices, such as the hounding of Lenny Bruce (although, as I understand it, he was to a large extent the author of his own misfortune, and had, perhaps, a simplistic take on the power of language) and Mary Whitehouse’s attack on “The Romans in Britain” (whose director, Michael Bogdanov was in the audience). An intentionally unfunny, self-righteous stand-up comedy segment in the middle seemed a bit of a dead weight, however; and the play lapsed into melodrama at the end, which tended to undermine the measured nature of the debate it aimed to inspire. An excellent cast though – Julie Barclay, Joshua McCord, Laura Dalgleish, Dan McCloud, Liz Gardiner – and the piece certainly provoked thought, even if only about our own boundaries, censorship being something to which everyone objects, until the point at which we don’t. Perhaps this kind of internal conflict, rather than clenched-fist confrontation with religious-political authoritarianism, might make a good subject for a more nuanced kind of drama.