Emporium plays host to ‘Ashes to Ashes’ and ‘Silence’. Lost In Space present this double header of Harold Pinter’s memory plays, which even individually are a difficult task to carry off. In his most lucid and accessible moments Pinter’s work can be a nightmare for the average performer.
There are few writers in literature history that have become adjectives for the themes they explore. ‘Pinteresque’ has come to define work loaded with mystery, enigmas and brooding malevolence, and pauses… Lots of pauses.
‘Silence’ is a jumbled portrayal of the aftermath of an affair. Presented on an almost empty stage, the three protagonists’ monologues each recall the festering of a relationship they shared. Tegen Hitchins, Matt Carrington and Richard Hahlo (pictured) perform on the stage together, whilst each perfectly capturing the crushing solitude of their characters lives. Often, as with much of Pinter’s work, it’s not so much as what is said, as what is left unsaid.
As the title suggests, this is a piece where the silence is as important as the dialogue. The minimalist nature of the script has caused other productions of ‘Silence’ to suffer from over-exaggeration of these pregnant pauses. Under the direction of Neil Brown (also directs ‘Ashes to Ashes’ this evening) a balance is struck. The lighting ensuring the ebb and flow of the narrative’s emotions remain raw and believable.
If you’re something of a theatre buff, yet never ventured out to Emporium, you should certainly make a visit. Aside from having the most comfortable and homely lobby in the City (which doubles as a café and cultural hub during the day), the auditorium suits the kind of intimate environment Pinter’s work demands. The closeness of performance and audience, really crank up the tension.
Overall, this is a thoughtful and wonderfully performed production. Had Pinter deigned it necessary to provide stage direction for ‘Silence’ I hope he’d have envisioned it like this.
Next up is ‘Ashes to Ashes’, another short one-act play. One that is slightly less abstract but no less thought-provoking. Karen Ascoe and Richard Hahlo portray a (possibly) married couple in the throes of a heated discussion. One is bullying and cajoling to get answers, the other avoiding acknowledging the questions.
This play easily sits amongst Pinter’s most unsettling and contextually elusive writings. The level of obsession gripping the wife over some strange, and unclear, memories is only met with her husband’s desperation to hear all the lurid details.
The battle between the pair continues throughout the narrative. Every time a straight answer is given, another insinuation to a greater, more horrific, memory is presented. No sooner do we learn that her former lover was violent towards her, she’s hinting he may have committed a crime against humanity.
Ascoe and Hahlo capably deliver the numerous emotionally charged moments. Once again the lighting plays a large part, dimming as the wife struggles to maintain her composure; her horrific allusions starting to overtake her.
If the wife really has undergone these torments, or is simply drawing from the agony of the world around her, is never fully revealed. Certainly there is good evidence her accounts could be unreliable. One thing is sure – audiences will be discussing this one for the rest of their evening.
This is all of Pinter’s rage against the repression, cynicism and indifference of the modern world, compressed into 45 tension filled minutes. He shoves us into a room of extremes. The stage’s depiction of a comfortable living space does little to hide its occupants from a society in torment. This average suburban existence is juxtaposed against recollections of atrocities, infanticide and mass death.
One theatre company performing two plays. One play deals with mankind’s penchant for acts of aggression and selfishness, the other looking at regrets and revelations. Pinter can be a difficult writer to get to grips with, but Lost In Space don’t shy away from the challenge, triumphing over the difficult source material.
Ashes to Ashes/Silence runs at Brighton’s emporium until Sat 22 Feb 2014