Re-imagining a classic is such an exciting undertaking. Bristol Old Vic opened its autumn season with a wonderful revival. Director Christopher Haydon challenged himself with producing a new version of Harold Pinter’s 1960 play, The Caretakers. With more than 2.5 hours running time and three distinct characters to play with, Haydon’s occupied this new-old space by pushing each character to rich immensity.
The story starts with Davies (Patrice Naiambana) being invited into the apartment of Aston (Jonathan Livingstone), who offers shelter to the homeless Davies until he can get back onto his feet. As they happily chat to each other and the audience is all well and merry, Aston’s brother Mick, played by David Judge, appears to disturb the jolly duo.
Davies is a merry-go-round with a manipulative twist. The two brothers are extreme opposites to each other, with Aston being the quiet, caring and introverted kind and Mick the articulate, unscrupulous and intimidating one. With cat-like movements, abrupt squats, and articulating each syllable with zest and menace, Mick’s performance dominates the stage until the end.
Aston’s kindness pours with each slow and steady movement he makes, and even more so in his protruding silences which, when used by expert hands as in this case, can mean more than words. His distinguished and touching monologue shines light in the never more relevant topic of mental health.
In the middle of it all is Patrice Naiambana aka Davies. His performance, demanding as it is, is full of humour and angering in a funny sort of way.
The design by Oliver Townsend is nicely crafted with various furniture bits and bobs scattered around the stage and high into the air, creating a vision of confinement and chaos.
The Caretakers is a play about so many things: homelessness, family or the lack of one, mental health and human relationships. It’s a must-see.
The show continues at Bristol Old Vic until September 30. For more info and bookings, visit www.bristololdvic.org.uk/the-caretaker.html.
Photos: Iona Firouzabadi