“The intimate domestic space is nested inside a boxed-in drama studio, so at times it feels like the audience are peeking into the window of a doll's house”The Old Vag Club

What Would Harold Pinter Think is a surreal reflection on the world we find ourselves in, prompting discussion of feminism, mental health and freedom. Walking into the Judith E Wilson drama studio, the audience are welcomed into – or just outside of – a cosy, yet bourgeois, apartment. The set is intricately designed, cluttered with stuff: lamps, lavender, books, wine bottles and postcards. The characters are surrounded by souvenirs from a time which they did not live in and cannot remember. This becomes interesting when they talk about ‘modern society’ and when the past comes back to revisit them. The intimate domestic space is nested inside a boxed-in drama studio, so at times it feels like the audience are peeking into the window of a dolls house. This is especially affecting when the dialogue turns to confront free will and whether or not it is determined by society; we wonder how doll-like these characters and we ourselves are.

The play begins as Eleanor and Robert’s ex-flatmate Joe comes back to visit, bringing their past back with him – which comes to manifest itself in different forms. Faith Colenutt plays Eleanor as convincingly enigmatic but disturbed and disturbing. Eleanor is a struggling actress, struggling with her dependence on the approval of others. She slides in and out of different characters, voices and moods throughout the play. At times her boyfriend Robert, played by Isaac Zamet, tries to take her lead and join in her playing. Their arguments turn playful as he coaxes her into the dramatic dialogue of Romeo and Juliet; in these moments their fights make them seem more intimate, but all their fights ultimately climax in frustration. The energy of the play seems to come from frustration, running off mispronunciations, misremembering’s and misunderstandings. The cast play this convincingly and comically.

Joe, played by Tom Turtle, is an onstage audience to Eleanor and Robert’s fights, and is compellingly awkward in his reaction to them. At one point he puts on Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush, prompting a comically irritated reaction from Robert but encouraging Eleanor to kick off her shoes and dance. Colenutt performs enchanting choreography alongside PiB, played by Imane Bou-Saboun. PiB seems to be a sort of shadow of Robert slinking around the stage, interjecting with visual (and occasionally verbal) comedy.

Joe brings his Great Aunt ‘to stay’ (or, rather her ashes in a currant jar), bringing back an embarrassing memory for Robert, which we never quite hear the story of. But for Eleanor, his Great Aunt comes back in a more literal way. The Great Aunt, played by Harriet Fisher, swans onto the stage, presumably as a figment of Eleanor’s imagination. Harriet Fisher delivers her quips hilariously, acquiring much more vivacity than we might expect of a ghost. This is not the only part of Eleanor’s past that is incarnated, her parents, played by Amelia Hills and Max Harrison, also appear in the flesh. The past and present are crowded onto the same stage at the same time; the play becomes surreal but we also feel Eleanor’s claustrophobia.

This is a wonderful performance of the absurdity of the modern world, which is dark, but also calls to be joked about.

What Would Harold Pinter Think was on at the Judith E Wilson drama studio 1-2 March

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