Dumb Waiter

Two hit men are in a dismal basement in Birmingham, waiting for instructions from Wilson, their mysterious and unseen boss, about their next hit. Ben is the senior member of the team and Gus his junior. Gus is constantly questioning; who their next victim will be, what happens after they’ve done their job, why are there are no decent facilities in the basement? Ben is much more accepting of the situation. He is perfectly content to lie on his bed all day, endlessly reading and rereading his newspaper. Unlike Gus, Ben is completely loyal (or perhaps subservient) to Wilson, never doubting or questioning his actions. At the back of the room is a dumb waiter, which delivers occasional food orders from above. Is there a working café above and, if so, how are the hit men expected to fulfil the orders? There is also a speaking tube which allows one man at a time to communicate with someone upstairs. The whole process is strange, as the basement is clearly not outfitted to provide any such service.Pinter’s early work was heavily influenced by Samuel Beckett, and that is evident in this play. However, rather than waiting for a god-like Godot, these two are waiting for Wilson, a far more malevolent figure. Also, where Beckett uses silence for theatrical effect, in this play there is a brooding violence behind the silence. The Dumb Waiter is an ideal play for the Fringe as it has only one act, a cast of two and a very basic set. This production works well. From the beginning the contrast in the personalities of the two men is clear. Ben is more naturally violent and aggressive towards others, except, of course, Wilson. Gus almost seems to have fallen into his career by accident and is perhaps beginning to question what he’s doing, so that the audience is very quickly on his side. It is perhaps a little heavy-handed and the humour could be brought out more, but overall it is a very enjoyable production.

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The Blurb

A seedy basement below a cafe. Primed and ready, two assassins await instructions. What they get is an order for steak and chips! Classic early Harold Pinter - claustrophobic, menacing, hilarious, a gem of a play.

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