The Dumb Waiter – Viking Theatre – Review by Frank L.
April 16 – 28
The Dumb Waiter was first performed in 1960 and is a two hander which lasts just about an hour. It has stood the test of time. The action takes place in a dingy subterranean space where Ben (Andrew Murray) and Gus (David Fennelly) lie on separate single beds. They apparently have been sent there by an unidentified third figure who does not appear but under whose direction they operate. Ben, the more dominant of the two, reads a newspaper, and now and again shares a snippet with Gus that has engaged him because of its bizarreness. Gus is initially involved in the task of putting on his shoes and tying his laces, a task that completely engrosses him and takes a great deal of time. Boredom invades as they wait for the third figure to give them orders. There is also in the room a dumb waiter which drops orders for what appears to be a restaurant situate above, but there are no cooking facilities. There is an underlying feeling of aggression and violence which is heightened by the presence of each man’s revolver. This claustrophobic atmosphere is lightened by comic semantic discussions about making tea and whether a football team is playing home or away. The genius of Pinter is alive in these exchanges.
The set is a dingy brown with a door on each side of the stage, the dumb waiter in the centre and with two single beds one at ninety degrees and the other at 180 degrees to the audience. The oppressiveness of the space is alleviated by the bright red blankets on the beds.
Murray as Ben has an easy intellectual superiority over Gus which he enjoys asserting. It gives him authority. Fennelly exemplifies Gus’s lack of confidence as anything he tries to do such as tying his shoe laces takes an inordinately long time or the making of tea which never actually gets done. The notes from the dumb waiter and a letter shoved through the door on stage right increasingly make both men edgier. Murray and Fennelly work well together to develop the increasingly disturbing changes in the atmosphere. This production is a good opportunity to consider and enjoy the complexity of an early Pinter masterpiece.