OK, so this is how Harold Pinter does a stage kiss: Firstly he draws his lips back in a toothlesss grin so that they are pressed hard against his teeth, then he attaches his mouth to that of the kissee and rolls his head from side to side in the manner of an old-fashioned hand-blotter. I mention this because I first saw Pinter’s kissing method in a production of The Hothouse at the Comedy Theatre back in 1995. I have also seen him do the same thing in a number of other productions of his own plays. Perhaps it is actually the correct way to do a stage kiss, maybe it’s the best way to do a real-life kiss and I should stop leading with the tongue.
The part that Pinter played was Roote, the head of the ‘rest home’, which was taken by Stephen Moore in this production. I’m not sure he was quite as menacing as I reckoned the part warranted also he had to be prompted several times which spoiled the flow rather. All the same when he wasn’t adding his own pauses to Pinter’s he did convey slightly dotty authority in a pleasing way.
At one point Paul Ritter, playing the part of Lush, entered smoking a cigarette which reminded me both of the smoking ban which it flouted in the name (and legal loophole) of artistic integrity and the paean to tobacco that he once delivered in the opening lines of a production of Moliere’s Don Juan. I couldn’t help feeling that although theatres can get away with smoking on stage (so long as there aren’t too many anti-smoking jobsworths in the local council), the fear of potential litigation or even just awkward questions, is going to put them off showing plays which feature smoking. It isn’t just the usual suspects like Noel Coward’s plays or Don Juan but I wonder if they would have produced more recent plays like President of an Empty Room (at the Cottesloe) or Anna in the Tropics (at Hampstead) both of which were set in cigar factories (with attendant smoking). Neither of the plays could be described as classics but they were worthwhile attempts at drama.
I also found myself thinking that Paul Ritter is in danger of becoming the best character actor in London (if he isn’t already – his Robin Day impersonation in The Reporter was a classic) especially when, after his first major speech, he received a round of applause.
A very petty point that I took perverse joy in noticing was that the glasses or tumblers that they used for the whiskey drinking scenes weren’t really Pinter regulation issue. They were a little too much ‘garage giveaway’ and didn’t possess thick or heavy enough bases to make me think that they were the real thing. I’m sure it’s not actually in the stage directions (or even important) it’s just that I associate any drinking in Pinter plays with a certain heavy bottomed style of glassware.
Finally if you want to chuckle at the National Theatre’s expense you might want to read the details of the Gala to celebrate Olivier’s Centenary which appears at the end of an article about Olivier which seems to be in all NT programmes at the moment. It’s just that it appears that Mister Olivier hasn’t been born yet.
Yes, I'm a big fan of Paul Ritter, especially though not exclusively in Pinter: he manages to convey that sense of being the same size and shape as the hole, but never settling in snugly - there's always a blue, a jiggle in his performance which is perfect for Pinter.
That, and every time I see him , even as Robin Day, I get a mental flash of the first time I saw him, when he was still called Simon Adams, in a student production of "Tartuffe" where the seduction scene culminated with him stripping down to a basque, stockings and suspenders.
Or did I dream it?
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