Jamie Lloyd must be excreting pheromones of cool right now. What counts for him as a CV, many would be happy to have as a bucket list; from the Shakespeare, Genet and Pinter texts to the Urinetown and Commitments musicals (and the Back To The Future musical likely waiting close by). Journalists give him titles. Magazines put him on lists. People think his middle name is ‘wunderkind of London theatre’. His partnership with ATG is called The Jamie Lloyd Company, and he is already building Brand Jamie for his future. He comes across as affable, passionate, gentle, political, angry, committed... and just a little bit gay (mandatory for any straight man in the arts) – making him pretty much the perfect ambassador for the theatre of tomorrow, today.
Pinter One is Pinter at his darkest, angriest, anti-establishment, anti-government and often terrifying self.
Oh, and he will be 38 years old in November.
This month sees the start of his run of 19 of Pinter’s shorter, therefore lesser played and lesser known works playing at The Harold Pinter Theatre which sees Llloyd continue his crusade to reach a more diverse audience in the theatre. So far, he is doing what others just say, with a fan base and ticket sales growing with people in their 20s and 30s. Follow him on Twitter for a while and you will see why. He is believable. He talks like your mate. And his style is not gimmicky, filling the stage with shock tactic to make the headlines. Based on the output of Pinter One (he directed the eight pieces in Act I with Williams directing the short play of Act II), it is simply that his own believability is reflected in the way he treats his actors and the text – nor just showing his prescribed ideas but simply opening up the text and allowing us to delve right in for ourselves. However far we may dare.
Pinter may seem an odd choice from the impression given by the Guevara icon style posters of previous “TJLC” shows. (Not sure anyone uses that abbreviation – at least not yet). They are IN YOUR FACE. They are shouting I’M FUCKING ANGRY. But this revolution in theatre isn’t about fighting, it’s about finding. And finding raw truth behind the words of Pinter – the King Of Subtext – creates an honesty at the actors’ performances that holds you close. They aren’t there to comfort you or to protect you from the pain, but they will never hurt you or punish you either. The feast of life is there. And we won’t like everything we see.
Pinter One is Pinter at his darkest, angriest, anti-establishment, anti-government and often terrifying self. The chronology is unimportant as the polemic remains consistent. Though knowing that we span 25 years depressingly highlights that the threat that can come when we give power to the wrong people hasn’t changed. And we will continue to make these mistakes. From 1983’s Precisely, cast in the shadows of Thatcher where two drunk Tories talk of the precision required to discuss numbers, without a care for the fate of the people behind those numbers… to 2008’s short poem Death, it’s fair to say that laughs are not high on this agenda.
(There’s also a short Trumpesque sketch, found only last year so a safe bet to have been written later. Jon Culshaw does his Trump thing. Audience does its incredulous laughter thing. Only we’re a bit over laughing at Trump now. So The Pres and an Officer would probably be best left as a lost work).
The anti theme holds the pieces together, creating a sense of narrative and with the change in material adding pace rather than jolting away from it. They don’t pretend to be one story and you shouldn’t see them as such, but there’s overlap and the continual threat of an imploding society continues to swell and grow. Other than one (very extreme) exception, we don’t see any physical violence. But it’s still painful as each word can carry a bullet, each phrase can pierce the flesh. At times it’s so painful as to be excruciating.
The ‘banter’ between torturers in The New World Order, deciding whether to call their victim a cunt or a prick, cos he can’t be both… The screaming pain heard by the punishment given to a son when a mother offers bread but says its name in the ‘wrong’ language in Mountain Language. From excruciating it becomes almost unbearable.
By the time we get to One for the Road we are as enthralled as exhausted – never able to look away from this (nearly) monologue as torturer meets family members one by one and rips them apart with his words. Antony Sher creates and commands a fear that chills and disturbs. Whether refilling his whisky glass with just “one for the road”, gently stroking the cheek of a 7 year old boy, or, with emotionless monotony, repeating “How many times have you been raped” over and over and over and over again. In the face of the woman. The woman who has been raped. He is of nightmares – impossible to look at and impossible to look away from.
Ashes to Ashes in the Second Act benefits from this position as a husband, or doctor, or threat, or other victim… tries to unearth what is true, what has actually happened, from the rambling nightmarish stories of a wife, or patient, or victim or other victim. It remains strong though the impact can’t build from Act One. Perhaps luckily.
The energy created by Pinter One is exhilarating and will outshine any idea you may have of leaving broken by the themes. If you haven’t seen Jamie Lloyd yet, see this. Don’t hold out just in case there will be better in the season – deal with that then. And if you haven’t heard much of Jamie Lloyd yet (more possible than some may think), spend an hour googling. Or tweetstalking. Disagree with him if you disagree. Get a bit jealous if you like. But then, just get excited. Get excited as fuck.