The Hothouse

Previewed 4 May 2013, Opened 9 May 2013, Closed 3 August 2013 at the Trafalgar Studios 1 in London

A major revival of Harold Pinter's play The Hothouse starring Simon Russell Beale and John Simm and directed by Jamie Lloyd.

It's Christmas Day in a nameless state-run mental institution where the inmates are subjected to a tirade of mindless cruelty. A maniacal and self-obsessed leader breeds a contagion of hierarchical savagery amongst his staff, who thrive on a noxious diet of delusion and deceit. At once chilling and deliriously funny, Harold Pinter's The Hothouse was written in 1958 just before The Caretaker but continues to be as vital and pertinent today as when it was written in the 50s.

The day got off to a lousy start! A death and a birth. Absolutely bloody scandalous! Is it too much to ask - to keep the place clean?

The cast for this revival of The Hothouse in London stars Simon Russell Beale as 'Roote' and John Simm as 'Gibbs' along with Indira Varma as 'Miss Cutts', John Heffernan as 'Lush', Harry Melling as 'Lamb', Clive Rowe and Christopher Timothy. This production is directed by Jamie Lloyd with designs by Soutra Gilmour, lighting by Neil Austin and sound and music Ben and Max Ringham.

"Simon Russell Beale plays Roote, a tweedy ex-colonel with a toothbrush moustache, who runs the show. But he can't remember last week, has forgotten that it is Christmas Day, and has long ago stopped seeing any of the patients. He is barking mad, although too much whisky quickly turns him into an apoplectic, bulbous-eyed Captain Mainwaring... The major problem with Jamie Lloyd's gloriously well-acted and riotously funny revival is that it is entirely lacking in any sense of menace, or any sinister sub-current. There's talk of a 'Ministry', but to judge by this Monty Pythonesque production, it might just as well be the Ministry of Silly Walks. Pinter has seldom felt so safe. And not in a good way." The Mail on Sunday

"Jamie Lloyd's crack cast seize upon Harold Pinter's smart lines with almost indecent gratitude... Soutra Gilmour's Fifties set, which includes some seats for the audience on stage, is a fine mix of institutional decor and period tech. There are some great set pieces, all played at such a pitch that this comes to feel like a series of darkly satirical cabaret turns. Much like the Coen brothers, though, Pinter is at his funniest and most potent when played for tension rather than flat-out laughs. So it's never boring - even Clive Rowe and Christopher Timothy turn up in bit parts." The Times

"Harold Pinter's second play, written before The Caretaker in 1958, languished in a drawer until 1980, when the playwright realised his extreme vision of mind control and totalitarian abuse of power had turned out to be alarrningly prescient. He described the play as 'an odd mixture of 'laughter and chill''. In Jamie Lloyd's production, you get plenty of the laughter - but rather at the expense of the chill... Roote, the officious tyrant of this vaguely described facility, is played by Simon Russell Beale in a near-constant state of furious, popeyed incredulity. Russell Beale's gift for comedy is a delight- but starting out on the brink of hysteria doesn't leave him anywhere to go... John Simm's reading of reptilian second in command Gibbs is meticulous... but Indira Varma's vampish Miss Cutts and John Heffernan's dandified insubordinate Lush teeter too close to full-on farce... Lloyd's reconfiguring of the Trafalgar main space means, as with his Macbeth, you're up close to the action. And he finds the pace in a piece that Pinter packed with daunting walls of words, used as a weapon to smother dissent. But you don't come out feeling shaken - and that's rather a shame." The London Metro

"The writing is sometimes a touch long-winded and would occasionally benefit from an edit. But Jamie Lloyd's fine production rarely relaxes its hold. Soutra Gilmour's design, with its peeling paint, scuffed lino and cheap office furniture, is so drab that you can almost smell the boiled cabbage that generally pervades such institutions. And an outstanding cast do the piece proud. As so often, Simon Russell Beale delivers a tour de force as the head of the 'rest' home, who learns that one of his patients has died and another has just given birth on a notably bleak Christmas Day... John Simm proves the perfect foil as the apparently bland and solicitous subordinate who is indeed 'taking the wee-wee', and his character becomes increasingly cruel as the action progresses... It's a consistently gripping production of a piece in which Kafka seems to shake hands with Monty Python." The Daily Telegraph

Simon Russell Beale's recent West End acting credits include Michael Grandage's revival of Peter Nichols' comedy Privates on Parade (Noel Coward Theatre 2012); Matthew Warchus revival of Ira Levin's comedy thriller Deathtrap (Noel Coward Theatre 2010); and David Leveaux revival of Tom Stoppard's play Jumpers (National Theatre and Piccadilly Theatre 2003). John Simm's recent London theatre acting credits include Toby Frow's production of Andrew Bovell's play Speaking in Tongues (Duke of York's Theatre 2009) and Paul Miller's production of Ingvar Ambjørnsen's Elling, adapted for the stage by Axel Hellstenius in collaboration with Petter Næss (Trafalgar Studios 2007).

Jamie Lloyd's recent West End theatre directing credits include William Shakespeare's Macbeth starring James McAvoy at the Trafalgar Studios in 2013; John Webster's play The Duchess of Malfi starring starring Eve Best at the Old Vic Theatre in 2012; Douglas Carter Beane's comedy The Little Dog Laughed starring Tamsin Greig, Rupert Friend, Harry Lloyd and Gemma Arterton at the Garrick Theatre in 2010; Richard Greenberg's play Three Days of Rain starring James McAvoy and Nigel Harman at the Apollo Theatre in 2009; Harold Pinter's The Lover and The Collection starring Richard Coyle, Charlie Cox, Gina McKee and Timothy West at the Comedy Theatre 2008; and Pam Gems' play with songs Piaf starring Elena Roger at the Donmar Warehouse and transfer to Vaudeville Theatre in 2008. Recent London West End theatre revivals of Harold Pinter's plays include Old Times starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Rufus Sewell and Lia Williams in 2013; Betrayal starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Douglas Henshall and Ben Miles in 2011; The Caretaker starring Jonathan Pryce in 2010; The Lover and The Collection starring Richard Coyle, Charlie Cox, Gina McKee and Timothy West in 2008; No Man's Land starring Michael Gambon, David Bradley and David Walliams in 2008; The Dumb Waiter starring Lee Evans and Jason Isaacs in 2007; and The Birthday Party starring Henry Goodman and Eileen Atkins in 2005.

The Hothouse in London at the Trafalgar Studios 1 previewed from 4 May 2013, opened on 9 May 2013 and closed on 3 August 2013.