A disused kitchen basement is the setting for a revival of Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter, this environment instantly creating a close proximity between actor and spectator. Ben, played by Ian Watt, sits on a narrow bed flicking through the pages of The Sun in silent dismay while Gus, played by Paul Comrie, is restless, removing one shoe at a time and gazing cautiously at his surroundings. The dynamic between the characters is at once established with Ben, stoical and at ease with his profession, and Gus, fidgety, offering a stark contrast to his counterpart hitman, almost anticipating that something is out of place.
The two actors and the way they interact with each other is highly engaging; their incongruous, witty dialogue is punctuated by short, nervous pauses and the occasional interruption by the dumb waiter, which provides a sense of comic relief yet ultimately becomes a far more unsettling device. Mark Westbrook’s direction makes full use of the performance space and his decision to provide no seating for the audience invites us to fully enter this absurdist narrative. Indeed, it is hard not to feel slightly intimidated by Ben as he stands inches away from you reprimanding Gus for his continual questioning, as these very questions are what we too seek to unravel and understand.
The show will no doubt adapt to suit the changing atmosphere brought by each new audience and the subsequent levels of claustrophobia - I strongly recommend you to be a part of this process. If you are looking to see two actors effortlessly play out their roles in a fascinating theatrical space, then make a visit to the New Town theatre. This is a play that should be watched.