Wednesday, 14 July 1999

The Lover and The Collection, MTC, 14 July 1999

by Harold Pinter 
MTC Fairfax Studio until August 14, 1999
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

In a recently screened interview with Harold Pinter, he exuded an atmosphere akin to that of his plays. He was cryptic, slow to respond, considered, laconic and often hilarious without cracking a smile. He has a stately presence, a bulky sensuality, resonant voice and a wicked irreverence for just about everything.

Melbourne Theatre Company have twinned two of his short plays: The Lover and The Collection. They are a happy marriage.

The Collection is directed by Jenny Kemp) with a delicate restraint and balance which matches Pinter's sharply honed dialogue. It is enhanced by a spare, cool design (Richard Roberts) with its flat grey surfaces and sleek furniture.

Bill (David Tredinnick), a clothing designer and Ex-"Slum Slug", lives with the older Harry (Bruce Myles) in an ambiguous relationship and a flash apartment. James (Robert Menzies) blunders in to interrogate Bill about James' own wife (Melita Jurisic).

The play moves in a near circle, with the end echoing the beginning. Similarly, The Lover appears to return to its start but, in both, nothing is the same and nothing is resolved.

The Lover, with lively direction by Bruce Myles, has a far greater sense of the menace which is characteristic of Pinter's theatre. An innocuous suburban husband and wife seem to tolerate each other's lovers but it becomes clear that their world is twisted by their bizarre secret life. Both plays revolve around a sexual fantasy in some way.

All four performances are delightfully eccentric and combine an emotional intensity with heightened physicality. The outcome is interesting: melodrama viewed through a broken glass.

Tredinnick as Bill has a boyish seductiveness and his background dancing in the second play is hilarious. Myles is edgy and dry as Harry while Menzies presses alarm bells with his dangerous characters in both plays.

The 180 -degree turn in the characters in The Lover, is disturbing and comic and the seduction scene is both erotic and lunatic. Jurisic hits a peak of her hallmark eccentricity in this scene. Pinter is not a writer to be described. See these plays. They are gems.

By Kate Herbert

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