Monday, May 15, 2006


I spent Friday night at a performance of Harold Pinter's 'The Caretaker' at the grungy Rechobite Theatre on William Street. It was a very interesting work. It takes a certain kind of skill to write a play which consists almost entirely of variations on two dozen lines, chopped and swapped and repeated, but which nevertheless tell a story about three men and their evolving relationships. I gather it's also great fun for the actors, to flex their skills to bring new shades of meaning to a line each time they utter it.

An old tramp is taken in by an odd but generous young man, and given a bed in the one inhabitable room in a derelict house. He is offered, in an ill-defined kind of way, the position of caretaker for the house, which he gleefully accepts. However he soon falls afoul of the young man's brother, who is as loud and aggressive as his brother is quiet and reserved. It soon becomes apparent that both of the brothers are... unstable. But the old man isn't an innocent in this situation; he wheedles and whines and tries to play the brothers off against each other, pushing them in small increments to get what he wants, then pulling back pathetically when he oversteps the mark, and frantically consolidating his gains.

It might be tempting to take a message from the play about greed and hubris, but really it's just a slightly surreal exploration of three marginal people, and the ways in which their relationships ebb and surge like an unpredictable tide.

This was the second play I've seen at the Rechobite, and it was another chance to enjoy this decrepit building. It seems to have been constructed from bricks of depression and planks of despair. The foyer area is dominated by a huge, steep, dark jarrah staircase, which looks at least three times too large for the space. The ticket counter is jammed in next to it on the ground floor, and the bar is squeezed into an alcove above it. The high pressed-tin ceiling is punctured in innumerable places by old light fittings, smoke detectors, and bits of unidentifiable fixtures clinging to it like barnacles. The carpets are worn and seemingly resigned to their ignominious fate. Everything else is overlaid with years of smoke, grime, scratches and scattered, half-hearted attempts at maintenance.

In the main theatre, any colours in the paintwork have been lost under smoke damage. That is, if the paintwork hasn't been physically scorched off the walls, which show evidence of a fire somewhere in the not-terribly-distant past, exposing the raw brickwork and other parts of the building's skeleton.

All in all it's like attending a Hobo Theatre... which is not entirely inappropriate in the case of this particular play.


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