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article imageReview: Timothy Spall shines in The Caretaker Special

By Tim Sandle     Apr 30, 2016 in Entertainment
London - Timothy Spall is appearing in an adaptation of Harold Pinter's 'The Caretaker' at the Old Vic in London. The play offers a new take on the old classic.
Some plays are hits and then fade away; others, such as the works of Arthur Miller, are popular enough to revived every few years. The same goes for many of the works of Harold Pinter. The Caretaker was Pinter's first theatrical success. The play debuted in London in 1960s and then became a Broadway hit, and spurred a movie featuring Donald Pleasence and Alan Bates (the U.S. title for the movie was The Guest.) The play has been revived for a London run at The Old Vic.
The Old Vic is a theatre located just south-east of Waterloo Station in London on the corner of The ...
The Old Vic is a theatre located just south-east of Waterloo Station in London on the corner of The Cut and Waterloo Road. Established in 1818 as the Royal Coburg Theatre.
The Old Vic is one of London's oldest theaters. Built in 1818, the term 'Vic' refers to the theater once being called 'Victoria' in honor of the British Queen. The theater is located closed to Waterloo station in south London. It is magnificent theater, replete with many period structures.
A magnificent ceiling high structure at The Old Vic  London.
A magnificent ceiling high structure at The Old Vic, London.
The premise of the play is where a handyman called Aston (played by Daniel Mays) invites an irascible tramp called Davies (played by Timothy Spall) to stay with him at his brother’s jumbled London flat. The tramp first appears manipulative and seeks to take advantage of his vulnerable host. Then Aston’s brother Mick arrives (portrayed by Gordon MacKay). This leads to a twisting power struggle between the three, which in the end, enforces family loyalty.
The play takes place in three acts, using one set piece - a run down, cluttered flat in London.
The set for  The Caretaker  at The Old Vic in London.
The set for 'The Caretaker' at The Old Vic in London.
The reference to "Caretaker" refers to both brothers independently, and for different reasons, offering the tramp the role of Caretaker of a run down house. A role which the character accepts, with the intention of doing very little.
Spall's performance is superb, and often menacing, touching and darkly comic Timothy Spall is a superb character actor. He began his career with the Royal Shakespeare Company before enjoying a successful film career. Spall's movie roles include Secrets & Lies, several Harry Potter films, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and Mr. Turner (for which he won best actor at the Cannes Film Festival.) His role in The Caretaker is a return to the stage.
The play has many themes and the context can be assessed on different levels. The play is set in 1960, just 15 years after the end of World War II, and the dilapidation and uncertainty is still evident in the brothers' flat. The play also deals with the treatment of mental illness, and there is a moving segment when the character Aston recounts the electroshock treatment he has suffered.
The play played to a packed house. Photo: The Old Vic Theater  London  April 30  2016.
The play played to a packed house. Photo: The Old Vic Theater, London, April 30, 2016.
There are also moments of existentialist absurdity and hopelessness; the characters, in Waiting for Godot style, regularly discuss doing things or going places without any apparent progress being made. Spall's whiny yet vulnerable vagrant talks of collecting identity papers from Sidcup; Aston of building a shed (ostensibly to reconstruct his fragile mental state); and Mick of doing up the house.
The program for  The Caretaker  with Timothy Spall  2016.
The program for 'The Caretaker' with Timothy Spall, 2016.
If you enjoy good acting, dark comedy and inventive word play, and haven't seen The Caretaker before, then the play is well worth catching. It remains captivating and fresh. The same goes for admirers of Spall's movie work; he is also an engaging stage actor.
More about Timothy Spall, The Caretaker, Play, Theater, Harold Pinter
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