London Culture | Pinter at the Pinter, The Lover and The Collection

London Culture | Pinter at the Pinter, The Lover and The Collection

Please note: I was given tickets to ‘Pinter Two: The Lover / The Collection’ in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Pinter at the Pinter is an exciting season of Harold Pinter’s one-act plays, which are being performed in London at the Harold Pinter Theatre until February. The plays are being put on as a tribute to Harold Pinter,  one of the greatest British playwrights of the 20th Century, on the 10th year anniversary of his death.

Twenty of these short plays are being produced, and a spectacular lineup of actors are performing throughout the season, including David Suchet, Rupert Graves, Tamsin Grieg, Celia Imrie, Russell Tovey and many more. ‘Pinter One,’ comprising of four one-act plays, and ‘Pinter Two,’ which includes The Lover and The Collection, are currently showing at the Harold Pinter Theatre until 20th October.

I was thrilled to be given press tickets to Pinter Two, as I’m a huge fan of David Suchet, and I couldn’t wait to see him live in The Collection. He did not disappoint! Pinter Two showcases two of Pinter’s one-act plays that explore the themes of love, fidelity, truth and fantasy.

Hayley Squires and John MacMillan in ‘The Lover.’  Image source.

John MacMillan and Hayley Squires star in The Lover as a married couple, Richard and Sarah, who are apparently exceedingly open with each other about their respective lovers. The play was first performed in 1963, and it is a play of its time, although the issues of marital happiness, mutual trust and desire that it explores are still very relevant today.

The Lover opens with witty, breakfast table repartee that’s reminiscent of Oscar Wilde. Richard cheerfully asks Sarah whether her lover is coming today, and Sarah replies that he is. Richard asks what time, and says he’ll be back by 6, to allow his wife and her lover a full afternoon. The next day, Sarah questions Richard about his mistress. He denies all knowledge of a mistress, although says he’s very well acquainted with a whore.

As the play progresses, it becomes clear that Richard and Sarah enjoy a complicated game of role-play. They are each other’s lovers, willingly acting out the fantasies of their spouse. When Richard suddenly decides he is tired of playing a part, the lines between reality and fantasy start to blur, and only then does the couple’s real tenderness for each other become apparent.

David Suchet in ‘The Collection.’  Image source.

In The Collection, David Suchet and Russell Tovey join Hayley Squires and John MacMillan in a story that further explores desire, fantasy and truth. Harry (Suchet) and his partner Bill (Tovey) cross paths with another couple James (MacMillan) and Stella (Squires), when James accuses Bill of having slept with Stella at a hotel in Leeds whilst she was away on a work trip. Apparently, Stella has confessed all to James, although her story seems surprising given the nature of Harry and Bill’s relationship. David Suchet steals the show with a hilarious and incredibly camp performance as Harry, and Tovey also adds a great comic touch combined with virile sexuality.

I feel a modern interpretation of this play adds greater nuance to Pinter’s work, as the roles of sexuality and gender are further explored under Jamie Lloyd’s direction. Just as the line between reality and fantasy was blurred in The Lover, so too does sexual preference and attraction remain ambiguous in The Collection.

Russell Tovey in ‘The Collection.’  Image source.

James enters into flirtation with Bill even as he accuses him of being unfaithful with his wife, and Bill’s story of what happened constantly changes. At first he denies ever having met Stella, then he admits to having sex with her and finally he says the truth is that he and Stella only sat in the hotel bar and talked about what they might do together, should they ever go upstairs to bed…. Who is to be believed? And what counts as an act of infidelity? Stella knows the truth of that night, but on being asked what really happened, the play closes on her enigmatic smile, so the audience must draw their own conclusion.

Of the two plays, I enjoyed The Collection the most, mainly because David Suchet’s performance was so incredible. Both productions were excellent, though, and I was also impressed by the simple, striking staging, from the bright pink walls of The Lover, to the clever use of space to portray two couple’s lives in tandem in The Collection.

Pinter Two: The Lover / The Collection is on at the Harold Pinter Theatre until 20th October. Tickets may be purchased here