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February 2004
Review: The Dumb Waiter
Toby Jones and Jason Watkins
Toby Jones and Jason Watkins


The Dumb Waiter & other pieces
by Harold Pinter

The Oxford Playhouse

Tues 17 - Sat 28 February
Times vary

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By Victoria Roddam

The Oxford Playhouse has recently mounted several successful in-house productions, to which it now adds this quite breathtaking new interpretation of Pinter's 1957 one-act play.

Accompanied by 6 further short pieces, largely from the playwright's earlier career it is directed by well-known actor and director Douglas Hodge.

Throughout the first half of the evening, Pinter's sparse and assured prose serves as a timely reminder of how much can be conveyed through mere language, gesture and positioning, particularly when partnered by Miriam Buether's inspired two-storey set.

With just two actors, Toby Jones and Jason Watkins, shouldering the entire production, the opportunities for repetition or caricature are plenty, but are deftly avoided by both actors.

Having whetted the appetite Watkins and Jones then embark on The Dumb Waiter, which charts the mounting desperation of two hitmen awaiting a 'job' in a disused Birmingham basement.

Watkins' taut posture and carefully controlled poise belies the inner frenzy of his character, while Toby Jones' cherubic features become increasingly more agitated and discordant during the mysterious movements of the eponymous machine, whose crashing descent creates a mounting and ominous sense of doom.

Bleakly hilarious, engaging and above all eminently watchable, I can only urge theatregoers both local and further afield to catch this masterful production before it moves to pastures new.

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