The Dwarfs

The Dwarfs is a semi-autobiographical work and Harold Pinter's only novel. The three male characters are drawn from some of his friends in Hackney, where he grew up. They’re lads in their mid twenties, so they’ve been around a bit and they have that East End edge to them, but each has gone his own way in terms of making a living. It was compiled over several years in the early 1950s but not published until 1992. His first play, The Room, didn’t appear until 1957.

a gripping, intimate and intense triumph.

So how did The Dwarfs end up on stage? Taking another look at it, he turned the novel into a radio play for the BBC in 1960. Three years later it was seen on stage at the Arts Theatre Club, but this version had only three characters, each male. It was not until 2002 that Pinter was approached by author Kerry Lee Crabbe and director Christopher Morahan with a request to make it into a proper stage play. He gave permission and it was performed at the Tricycle Theatre. The big change they brought about was the inclusion of a woman, creating a character that provided for new storylines and added dimensions.

Most of the action takes place in a basic flat; we’re not yet into the age of boutique designer apartments. The minimalism here is simply a lack of furniture, but there is a table and chairs, an armchair and a sink with draining board and a curtained cupboard underneath it. The simplicity of Isabella van Braeckel design allows for flexibility in changing locations with just a few small touches and the space around it and within becomes a walking area, a park, a street and a canal amongst other places in this busy play. Julian Starr’s tailor-made interludes smoothly transition the twenty-nine scenes, integrating sounds and text with effects and carefully chosen pieces of music. The opening recorder tune is particularly cheery, sets the tone and anticipates the first scene. His artistry throughout the play is a delight to hear. Lighting designer Chuma Emembolu also rises to the challenge of setting the mood and moving smoothly from scene to scene in the confines of this intimate theatre.

Quite what can go wrong with a recorder is a mystery, but unlike the one we’ve just heard, Len (Ossian Perret) can’t get a note out of his. This failure is perhaps symbolic of much in is life; a struggle to achieve something that doesn’t materialise. Yet he is a constant in the lives of the others, supportive and no threat when is comes to finding a girl. Perret sincerely portrays the range of qualities associated with being a nerd, a geek and a dork with eccentric behaviour around the table and moments that provide insight into the man. His enthusiastic and detailed directions for a journey across London reveal that he has spent hours learning bus timetables by heart; his enthusiasm for the time he spent in hospital speaks volumes about his feelings of loneliness and insignificance. Then there are his imaginings of dwarfs in the garden.

Mark (Charlie MacGechan) also craves attention and has some idea of how to go about getting it, after all he is an actor. MacGechan suggests that beneath the smooth exterior there smoulders a menacing, rather slimy character you wouldn't really trust. You certainly don’t want to let him near your girlfriend as Pete (Joseph Potter) finds out.

Potter looks good, is full of charm, is jovial and makes the mercurial Pete a seemingly great guy to be around. He has all the talk but he too has unpleasant features lurking beneath that facade. Whatever psychoses he suffers from, they are frightening to observe and Potter has mastered the art of bringing about the sudden, unexpected outbursts that Pete is prone to.

Who knows what triggers them, but Virginia (Denise Laniyan), his girlfriend, puts up with them, is subservient and doesn’t provoke him. What is this intelligent schoolteacher thinking of? Again, there is more going on in her mind than meets the eye and ultimately she has her day. Laniyan, in her professional stage debut since graduating from Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, looks stunning and gives a triumphant performance that is beautifully cool and calm, soft and gentle in contrast all that is going on around her.

Casting director Martin Poile has found a quartet truly worthy of this play and Director Harry Burton has crafted them into a team that does credit to the fast-paced work that contains the seeds of what Pinter was to achieve in the years ahead. With all this talent it's not surprising Flying Colours Productions have created a gripping, intimate and intense triumph.

Reviews by Richard Beck

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The Blurb

Three old school friends, Mark, Pete and Len, knock about the streets, pubs and cafes of East London arguing the toss about art, life and love. The fourth member of their tight-knit group is Virginia, a young teacher. As autumn draws in, each of the friends finds their perception of one another and themselves irrevocably changed. Adapted from Harold Pinter’s only novel; semi-autobiographical, fascinating, disturbing and humorous, it contains the seeds of all his subsequent work.

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