Reading Rep present The Dumb WaiterBy Caroline Cook
July 18, 2012
After coming out of the theatre at Reading College having watched Reading Reps’ performance of Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter I went home and started to research.
Some writers said the play was entirely metaphorical, others said it was all about the subtext and one said the work is an allegory of capitalist slavery. Right.
None helped me decipher the tickets that dropped from the dumb waiter into the basement, or the reason for matchsticks being left at the door.
But that, it would appear, is kind of the point of Pinter. His work keeps you thinking long after the curtain has fallen.
Reading Rep sewed the seeds in a clever one-hour production of the play and then sent its audience into the night to puzzle over the plot.
The story follows two hit-men, Ben (Gary Richens) and Gus (Rick Romero), waiting in a basement for their assignment.
Gus, the junior member of the team, ponders his previous job, interrupting Ben’s newspaper reading with his constant questions.
As the tension inside the room rises the sound of a dumb-waiter clunks into the room, interrupting the men mid-conversation and bringing food orders, although the basement is not equipped for making food.
Richens and Romero make a captivating double-act, juxtaposing Gus’s simple questioning (could he be what dumb really refers to in the title?) with Ben’s calm control.
Moments of humour are subtly infused with extensive and sometimes nonsensical dialogue – the men argue over the semantics of ‘light the kettle’ and ‘put the kettle on’ at one point – and prompt sneaking smiles from the audience, who remain both intrigued and amused throughout.
Every now and again the play threatens to spill over into something serious, but it is pulled back by an amusing line or the clunk of the dumb-waiter.
The theatre space at Reading College is ideal for the basement setting, with darkened walls and sparse furniture creating a rather lonely holding space for the hitmen.
Reading Rep has secured the college’s theatre for its upcoming season, which is good news as it provides an intimate performance space.
The company is hoping to establish a reputation as Reading’s resident theatre company and, if The Dumb Waiter is anything to go by, Reading Rep will be a welcome boost to the town’s theatre scene – even if I still can’t quite work out what The Dumb Waiter was all about.
The Dumb Waiter is on at Reading College until Saturday. Tickets are £10. To book visit www.readingrep.com