One for the Road / New World Order / Mountain Language / Ashes to Ashes

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.

Reviews by Simon Ximenez

Olivier Theatre

The Witches

Soho Place

The Little Big Things

Lyttelton Theatre

The Confessions

The Lyttelton Theatre

The Effect

Barbican Theatre

A Strange Loop

Olivier Theatre

Dear England


Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
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The Blurb

Opening the Pinter at the Pinter season is a dynamic collection of Harold Pinter’s most potent and dangerous political plays.

The incendiary One for The Road is Pinter at his most terrifying. A ruthless government official interrogates a dissident and his family, but is the torturer more tortured than his victims? The New World Order explores how the abuse of power is legitimised in the name of freedom and democracy, as two brutal interrogators prepare to inflict their terrible punishment on a blind-folded insurgent. Pinter investigates the suppression of ideas and the supposed threat of non-conformity in Mountain Language: a group of captives attempt to find a voice when their shared language is banned by the state.  

The evening culminates with Ashes to Ashes, a richly atmospheric and compelling play in which the dark nightmare of human atrocity infiltrates a couple’s living room. Directed by award-winning actress and long-time Pinter collaborator, Lia Williams.

Cast to be announced 

About the Pinter at the Pinter season

The Jamie Lloyd Company presents a complete season of Harold Pinter's one-act plays to celebrate the legacy of the Nobel Prize-winning British writer on the 10th anniversary of his death. This unique theatrical event will play at the Harold Pinter Theatre from 6 September 2018 to 23 February 2019, and promises an unforgettable celebration of the "most influential, provocative and poetic dramatist of his generation" (The Guardian).

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