Pinter Six: Party Time & Celebration, by Harold Pinter
The Jamie Lloyd Company / directed by Jamie Lloyd
Seen on January 10, 2019
Score: 4 / 5
First a cocktail party, then a celebratory dinner. In this double bill of social masks and irrepressible malice, Pinter’s delectably shady characters enjoy themselves, or pretend to do so, against slowly emerging backdrops of social and political exclusion. Beneath the veneer of their self-indulgent civility lie many shades of darkness, ranging from psychological to societal, and the inevitable return of the repressed takes a surprisingly different form in each play.
Jamie Lloyd’s direction is strikingly precise without suffocating or flattening the many ambiguities at work in both pieces, and his tonally diverse cast are a shoo-in for these two ensembles of social climbers and tramplers. The most arresting performances belong to John Simm, Eleanor Matsuura, Celia Imrie, Katherine Kingsley, and Tracy-Ann Oberman. No actor carries even a trace of their character from Party Time to that in Celebration; their dexterity in differentiating between the two sets of characters is commendable. The tightly constructed ambiance of Party Time, hauntingly designed by Richard Howell (lights) and Soutra Gilmour (sets and costumes), is one respect in which that play outdoes Celebration in its ultimate effect on the audience. Celebration also feels a bit looser, perhaps more diffuse, in terms of both text and direction. Still, the production as a whole has a distinct flavour of theatrical bravura.