A play littered with second guessing, false pretences and a lot of alcohol would be the most apt generalisation of Brighton Little Theatre’s- or should that be Harold Pinter’s- No Man’s Land.
The brilliance of this 1975 play almost out shone the cast and company who had dared to take on this intensely vicious cycle of misrecognitions and alcoholic blunderings, yet having said this, it is of great compliment to the actors that once settled into their rambling tirades, they simply disappeared into the characters they were playing, which is no mean feat.
The play began with a meeting of two well-dressed men in their later years of life, sipping whiskey in a North West London abode, presumably in Hampstead. Spooner, the more talkative of the two, was bobbing around the room optimistically in contrast to Hirst who sat, slumped, in his chair trying to get a straight answer out of the man who was keeping his company.
As the play went on, the men began to cajole each other more and more with their vocabularic ranting and it became apparent that Spooner may have been leading Hirst into a void of his own drink-fuelled imagination.
Even the two rather more unsavoury gentlemen, Foster and Briggs, who entered the play in its latter stages spoke almost poetically as they too spun a web of inaccuracies in explanation of how they came to know the litterateur, Hirst.
The referencing of Hampstead Heath and chance encounters with men of rank in seedy London pubs hinted subtly at the homosexual undertones of this play, which was only exacerbated by the fondness of which they spoke about their old chums “Bunty” and others who attended Oxbridge.
As with the rest of the plot however, these references were meant to mislead and were interspersed with recounting of amorous affairs with married women and unrequited crushes on their acquaintances’ sisters.
As more was revealed by and about Hirst with his companions on stage, it became less and less clear as to whether they were occupying his reality or were in fact characters of his unconscious, toying with him as he battled his way through a kind of personal limbo.
As the play was drawing to its end and the audience members were trying to blink themselves awake- not because of the length of the play, but rather, the heat of the small theatre setting- it became clear that nothing, actually, was going to become clear and that this vile, confused alcoholic had long since secured his own fate as he announced: “I’ll drink to that”.
The styling of this piece was impeccable; each character boasted an immaculate suit and presented us with a particularly perfect image of greed and voracious indulgence as Spooner ate his breakfast off Fine China and a silver tray, accompanied by an entire bottle of Champagne.
None of the characters were particularly likeable but this was beyond the point, it was never going to be an empathetic meandering down an exchange of pleasantries and wasn’t intended as such. For this, the actors should be praised; each character was as abhorrent as the last, yet I left gladly with an overwhelming feeling of catharsis.