First performed in 1963, Harold Pinter’s, The Lover is a superbly clever play with a fast-paced wit that easily entertains the twitter-impaired attention span of today’s audience. Under the subtle and eloquent direction of Now Look Here Theatre's, Kate Wild, The Lover is paired with the simmering, dark A Slight Ache to form a powerful double bill of Pinter Perfection; a peek at the hoodwinked face of love-on-trial from two very different forces.
Daniel Murphy and Kerith Atkinson perform exceptionally well together as a married couple under both titles. In The Lover, Pinter hides the affairs of a middle aged couple brilliantly with-in the fabric of their own relationship and challenges each to be fulfilled by it. She plays her husbands whore, he plays his wife’s toy-boy until it is evident that while for one, the game is imperative for the retention of that joie de vivre of married life, while for the other it has become tiresome game and must end by foul means or fair.
Wild has chosen to place these two Lovers in their time of creation, trapped in the vice of a late fifties-style marriage – the colourful perfection of the Home Beautiful living-room, the cheery milk deliveries to the door and the appropriate hard-working husband who returns home to his slippers and whisky each and every evening. The hyper-real just-so of their lives lends itself beautifully to the illicit frivolity of their faux-affair and Wild’s choice of cheesy fifties tunes adds to the comedy as Atkinson and Murphy energetically negotiate the character changes. Pinter must have been beautifully on-point when this was first shown, one wonders how confronting the first audiences found it and yet in an age that continues to shop for ‘happiness’ in newly invented styles of partnering that normalise the dirty games that these two play, the crux of The Lover is ever as relevant.
A slight shift in time and tension brings us a couple later in life - the same image of surface perfection but a very different danger simmering beneath the comedic treatment of a wasp disturbing the upper-middle-class garden breakfast being enjoyed by Flora and her vain husband Edward. The devilish relish Edward takes in devising an ingenious way of disposing of said wasp speaks of his domineering, self-righteous character. It is a lurking something that may take a little more effort to interpret on the viewer’s behalf and I suspect that there are a few potential stories being told here depending on the experiences of the viewer. A Slight Ache, begins with the same sort of joviality as The Lover, but that lurking unsettling something is there from the outset; it’s hard to put your finger on it until the Matchseller (a menacingly good performance by Zac Boulton) appears at the front fence. This is a dark character who refuses to yield its identity to the couple and it is clear that this figure has been summonsed by Edward and his neuroses; also clear is that it could be the undoing of Edward if he cannot keep himself together. To me it speaks of the onset of dementia or mental illness, the shadow of oneself the leaches memory and existence and as Edward witnesses the care and attention his wife pays to this shadow the more desperate and suspicious he becomes of it until he becomes the void. Once again Atkinson and Murphy perform superbly, delicately balancing the dark-homour and the plain darkness. While The Lover reminds of that other sharp witted scribe, Coward, A Slight Ache tingled slightly of that menacing Poe.
Without even touching on the raw perfection of Kate Wild’s understated creativity and her sharp-eye for gathering a seamlessly talented cast, her choice of material can be utterly relied on to provide a provocative and rewarding evening staring at the stage. Now Look Here Theatre is definitely one to watch (and support) on the indie Brisbane theatre scene and can be followed via their Facebook page.
Someone needs to see all the things.