Tuesday, 12 April 2016

FOUR STAR review for The Caretaker at the Old Vic

THE minute the lights shine on the set of The Caretaker I just wanted to get up and tidy it up. Full of junk, paint and wallpaper peeling off the wall, dirty, a bucket suspended from the roof and faulty electrics, it is the epitome of squalidness.
It is of course meant to be like that and is actually one of the stand out features of Matthew Warchus's production of Harold Pinter's play, now on at the Old Vic.
The story concerns Davies a drifter of a man who finds himself living in the flat which is owned by two brothers. One, Mick is twitchy, overbearing, slightly sinister and speaks at about a million miles an hour. The other, Aston, who befriends Davies and takes him in, is very slow, clearly damaged at having been institutionalised, generous and friendly and constantly trying to fix a plug.
Davies, played by Timothy Spall, looks like he's been pulled through several hedges backwards - wiry and wild grey hair all over the place, grubby and dishevelled I just wanted to show him the nearest bath and get him cleaned up!
Nothing really happens in the piece other than these three men vying for power, and comparisons with Waiting For Godot are unsurprising.
But it is a fascinating look at their lives. They are all outsiders in one way or another, lacking identity but desperate to belong and in the case of Davies, wanting to go and find his papers in Sidcup - a journey he never quite manages.
The performances are exceptional. Daniel Mayes as the quiet Aston is brilliant, showing flashes of anger at times to hint at there being more to him than meets the eye.
George MacKay is equally brilliant as Mick suggesting that there is something not just sinister about his character but manic and manipulative.
Timothy Spall is fabulous as Davies, switching from vulnerable old man to cocky and cunning as he pokes around the flat trying to find something to steal.
Brilliantly staged it is also very funny with some hilarious scenes including one in which Davies puts on a smoking jacket over his grubby and moth eaten clothes and assumes the air of a gent.
Just fabulous.

The Caretaker is on at the Old Vic, Waterloo until Saturday, May 14. Visit www.oldvictheatre.com/ for full listings.

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