Saturday, 19 November 2016

No Man's Land - a review

No Man’s Land, showing at London's Wyndham's Theatre, is not a straightforward play but then no one expects straightforward from Harold Pinter. Having said that, it was the most enjoyable and satisfying play I have seen in years. I’m still thinking about it.

SPOILER ALERT: If you’re planning to go and see this production then you may not want to read any further just yet:

The two main characters were Hirst played by Patrick Stewart and Spooner by Ian McKellan. Both are brilliant actors, amazingly brilliant actors, but Ian McKellan was especially amazing. We were close enough to the stage to be able to see each facial expression and mannerism executed with perfect timing to enhance humour, pathos and, at times, creepy discomfiture.

The story could be read in two ways. Maybe it was merely an evening where Hirst had picked up Spooner in a pub near Hampstead Heath and taken him home for drinks. The more they drank the more outlandish their conversations became. All this was punctuated by the arrival of two younger men, both apparently living in the house, one young pretty boy who we were led to think was a toyboy/house keeper and the other a rough character who could have been a minder.

The more sinister interpretation is first alluded to early on in the play when Hirst mentions the phrase ‘no man’s land’. There is a quiet ‘waft’ of eerie music on stage. As the second half progresses it becomes obvious that all is not what it at first appears to be. Hirst is disturbed by images of a drowning man. Spooner is trying to encourage him to return to his writing, become more involved with poetry. He could be trying to pull him back from some state of purgatory, whereas the two younger men could be holding him there, plying whisky and words of hopelessness. I interpreted this to mean that the three actors surrounding Hirst were his alter egos first pulling him into purgatory, then trying to save him from it.

I wondered if there would be a satisfactory explanation at the end but the final lines of the play went as follows:

Spooner: You are in no man’s land. Which never moves, which never changes, which never grows older, but which remains forever, icy and silent.

Hirst: I’ll drink to that.

The advantage of this ending was that we were able to spend a long and enjoyable supper in a Covent Garden restaurant discussing our varying interpretations of what Pinter actually meant by it all.

If you’ve seen the play I’d love to hear your interpretation.


4 comments:

  1. Hi Ros .. fantastic you had such great seats. The play sounds amazing and to have Stewart and McKellan as lead characters ... how superb - and so interesting ...

    I've no idea - but can definitely see where you're coming from ...

    Wonderful to have been able to make a plan to see it with your daughter ... so pleased for you ... cheers Hilary

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  2. All I can say is Wow. That must have been a fantastic, magical experience. Indeed, the lines, the acting shall stick with you. Plays are always up for interpretation. Thanks for sharing your marvelous night.

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  3. Wonderful to be able to go to the theatre and see such pillars of the thespian world! It sounds as if it was a marvellous play and evening!

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