The Dumb Waiter

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Previewed 2 February 2007, Opened 8 February 2007, Closed 24 March 2007 at the Trafalgar Studios 1 in London

Revival of Harold Pinter's play The Dumb Waiter in London starring Lee Evans and Jason Isaacs and directed by Harry Burton.

In an airless basement room, two killers await confirmation of the identity of their next 'hit'. They're a team from way back. One is strong and silent, the other a talkative chatterer. They're they Laurel and Hardy of hitmen with silencers, and the tension mounts as the comedy unfolds.

But, today something has disturbed Gus and Ben's normally efficient routine. They wait for their handler to get in touch with their orders, but the chatterer can't erase the memory of their last job and the silent one is definitely on edge. Unseen forces bear down on Gus and Ben in their precarious and darkly funny world. Meanwhile, increasingly bizarre orders keep arriving via a serving hatch...

Harold Pinter wrote The Dumb Waiter in 1957, although it was not staged in London until 1960 when it opened at the Hampstead Theatre in January of that year, before transferring to The Royal Court Theatre three months later. Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter is one his earliest works, written around the same time as The Birthday Party. Harold Pinter's numerous plays include The Caretaker, The Homecoming, Old Times, Betrayal and Moonlight. Pinter was awarded with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005. This production of Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter in London is being staged to mark the play's 50th anniversary year.

Although Lee Evans started out as a 'physical' stand up comedian, he has over the last few years carved out a career in acting - both on films such as Mousehunt and Funny Bones aswell as on stage in Samuel Beckett's Endgame opposite Michael Gambon and, most recently, in the musical The Producers opposite Nathan Lane. Jason Isaacs' credits include the role of 'Lucius Malfoy' in the Harry Potter film series and on television in The West Wing, Brotherhood and, most recently, The State Within. Director Harry Burton has performed in many Pinter productions. For the Royal Court Theatre's recent 50th anniversary season he directed readings of Harold Pinter's The Room and The Dumb Waiter to great acclaim.

The Dumb Waiter, written by Harold Pinter in 1957, actually had its World Premiere production in Germany at Frankfurt's Kleines Haus on 28 February 1959 under the title Der Stumme Diener in a production adapted by Willy H Thiem and directed by Anton Krilla. Following the 1960 London production of The Dumb Waiter the play has been presented a number of times on television including a 1961 production made by Granada Television starring Kenneth Warren and Roddy McMillan and a 1985 BBC production starring Colin Blakely and Kenneth Cranham. An American television version was shown on ABC in 1987 starring John Travolta and Tom Conti in a production directed by Robert Altman. In addition The Dumb Waiter has been presented around the world including as Kokkenelevatoren (Denmark), Ruokahissi (Finland), Samoobsluga (Poland) and O Monta-Cargas (Portugal).

"Two men lie on stained beds in a grimy, windowless basement in a Birmingham house where the only feature is a dumb waiter. In white shirts and black trousers, they look like waiters. But it soon transpires that they are gun-toting hitmen waiting for instructions for their latest contract killing. There's a lot of shouting in Harry Burton's revival. This drowns out the subtext - which is the texture of any Pinter play - murders the music-hall rhythms of the piece and undermines the rude noises of the lavatory cistern and terrifying slam of the dumb waiter as it crashes down, bringing weird orders for steak and chips. Lee Evans, a comedian turned actor with a clown's physical skills, plays Gus, the slow-on-the-uptake, subordinate chap. As he empties his uncomfortable shoes and finds them full of surprises, he seems to be merely passing the time in a meaningless void. Gus is the Dud to his rather superior, newspaper-reading mate Ben's Pete (a dull Jason Isaacs). It's only towards the end, when the plot thickens darkly, that Burton stops milking the piece for laughs and finally recognises the vital element of fear that makes a Pinter play tick so threateningly. Too late." The Mail on Sunday

"This is a welcome revival of the Pinter classic on its 50th anniversary, with Jason Isaacs as Ben and Lee Evans as Gus: two nervy hit men in a claustral basement, awaiting their orders... Jeremy Isaacs, as the senior operative, Ben, with his neat little beard and steel glasses, looks like a particularly spruce and sadistic English teacher... Lee Evans is an excellent, shambolic, dim-witted Gus, his body language as funny as ever, standing gormlessly with his feet splayed at 90 degrees, struggling to understand... This is generally a deft and convincing production, alarmingly funny." The Sunday Times

The Dumb Waiter in London at the Trafalgar Studios previewed from 2 February 2007, opened on 8 February 2007 and closed on 24 March 2007