REVIEW: The Birthday Party, New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth

Harold Pinter
Harold Pinter

Portsmouth Guildhall is looking for new trustees to help take it through its £15m Renaissance project

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I’ve never liked Pinter and hoped the London Classic Theatre’s version at the New Theatre Royal would convince me. It didn’t.

That said, LCT’s production has much to recommend it.

Pinter’s script is like an outline and it’s very much up to the audience to colour it in with the help of the actors. Thankfully, played on a suitably sleazy and beautifully observed set, there isn’t a weak performance on offer.

Cheryl Kennedy as Meg, the child-like landlady of a seaside boarding-house, excels – particularly in the scene where, dressed in an ancient party frock, she dances on her own at the eponymous party.

Jonathan Ashley and Declan Rodgers, as the sinister interlopers, Goldberg and McCann, handle the split-second, razor-sharp interrogation scene brilliantly.

Imogen Wild (Lulu) plays her seduction and subsequent reaction to it with passion (great voice, too) and Gareth Bennett-Ryan as the weak Stanley descends convincingly into madness and torpidity.

Ged McKenna gives the finest performance as Meg’s shuffling husband, Petey. He excels at prising the comedy from Pinter’s text and fills the ubiquitous Pinter pauses with thoughts you can hear. His frustration and impotence in making any difference to Stanley’s fate is effectively conveyed by nothing more than silence and a look.