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THE HOT HOUSE

June 10, 2013

Harold Pinter‘s THE HOT HOUSE at the Trafalgar Studios is part of the Jamie Lloyd season of plays. It is the tale of the senior management and staff that run an institution for people who have been declared “insane” by the State. Those who are aware of Harold Pinter’s politics (I had the fortune of listening to him speak in person in opposition to the Bush/Blair campaign to take us to war against Iraq in 2003) will not be surprised to learn, that he considers the management of such a Government institution more mad than the inmates.

Simon Russell Beale gives another of his bravado performances as the most senior manager in the Hot House taking us to the absolute edge of believability. He often leaves us hanging in the air anticipating his very next move or words. Astounding how this man takes these very well written characters and gives them life. Perfectly in contrast with the very “big” performance from Mr Russell Beale we have the incredible subtle crawling and sinister number two played by John Simm. The two of them create a double act which is a play in itself.

However it is John Heffernan who absolutely stole the show for me with his performance as “Lush”. This young man has the comic timing of a genius. I saw him recently in the National’s production of “She Stoops to Conquer” where he also stood out amongst an incredible ensemble. Harry Melling, Indira Varma, Clive Rowe and Christopher Timothy round off this incredible ensemble. What a performance.

The theatre has been cleverly transformed into a very drab ageing institution. The first couple of rows of seats for the audience are an assortment of odd chairs giving the feeling of a group therapy session. Great effect but I must say I am glad I did not have the discomfort. There was a little old lady in a scarf with carrier bags in one of these seats who looked like she had wandered off the street not quite sure where she was. She was wandering around the set in the interval and had to be directed back to her seat by one of the ushers. It all added to the feeling that everything was rather odd! Real or not – who knows. Harold Pinter at his best.

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