Two starters can’t satisfy like a main course, but the quality of these minimalist miniatures is undeniable. Director Jeff James matches Harold Pinter’s eye for mystery and intricacy in a production as fine-tuned as the car engine onstage.
In Alex Lowde’s exquisite design, that engine signifies a taxi in ‘Victoria Station’, a frustrated radio conversation between a London cabbie and his command centre. Pinter’s text catches the unnerving incongruity of the early hours in a short that’s like ‘No Man’s Land’ triple-distilled. Kevin Doyle’s Driver, Number 274, and Keith Dunphy’s Controller both seem on the edge of breakdown, and the other’s crackling voice is at once solace and threat.
‘One for the Road’ keeps topping up its menace as members of a captive family are individually interrogated. What initially seems like score-settling between associates escalates slowly. Doyle as questioner Nicolas starts as a social oddball, becomes a gangland boss and ends a cold-hearted dictator. Callous and chilling, it’s a brilliant metaphor for power-hungry expansion.
Both dramas keep you on shifting sands, trying to gauge the situation. Always crisply tense, Jeff James’s calculated direction adds to the puzzles: why is Nicolas so averse to leaving fingerprints? Can we assume his three prisoners are husband, wife and son? The questions, not least their connections, keep niggling long after this classy double-bill.
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