Review of 'No Man's Land'

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“No Man's Land” begins with Spooner (Ian McKellen) visiting an old, successful, man, Hirst (Patrick Stewart), convalescing in a lighthouse. The two drink copious amounts of alcohol as they talk about a number of things though come up against a brick wall when Spooner asks Hirst about his wife. Hirst refers to be drawn into that conversation (though we return to this later in the play for a dramatic revelation from Hirst). Spooner and Hirst are later joined by Hirst's son, Foster (Damien Molony) and man servant Briggs (Owen Teale) who also live in the lighthouse. Foster and Briggs are immediately suspicious about the intentions of Spooner particularly when Briggs recalls that Spooner frequents a local pub. When Hirst leaves for bed then returns ranting and raving, showing no recollection of Spooner, Spooner is locked in the room alone for the evening. The second act sees Spooner woken up by Briggs who offers him an elaborate breakfast but the suspicions remain as the conversation continues…

Two greats of the theatre on the stage at the same time giving astounding performances. I have to say that McKellen here is the most riveting in his portrayal of Spooner though, granted, it is the most outlandish of the two characters that leave the audience always wondering as to his real identity is particularly in light of Hirst's dramatic changes in character: Is he who he says he is and often appears to be, or is he just a vagrant or pretender looking to take advantage of a wealthy old man? Stewart is suitably understating and mostly expressionless throughout which leaves little room for the flamboyance afforded to McKellen. Together they work well together though I did find the conversations often quite stilted but if this is supposed to be a dream or some such as many have suggested, that is perhaps intentional. I have to say that Stewart does look a lot younger than I would have expected for Hirst…but perhaps this is just me.

The two supporting cast of Molony and Teale are tremendous, playing their stereotypical characters perfectly - The eccentric, spoiled, son and the heavy, gruff man servant - Both highly suspicious of this stranger in their midst. Their dramatic mood shifts add to the frequent palpable tension that often fills the stage.

As far as the story is concerned, there is not much of it here. Here the dialog is key as we jump from topic to topic to topic with the common theme generally the search for meaning in life as one gets older. Harold Pinter here is on fine form with sparkling, witty speeches throughout that often end with a silence for the audience to appreciate and absorb. Poetic in parts the words are rich and beautiful yet filled with depth and meaning. Often the speeches go on for 5 or so minutes at a time which is a tribute to the performers who must recall all of the words and emotions they evoke. Having said this, I did find the first act tended to draw out for quite some time towards the end and often the silences on the stage a trifle too long, but these are relatively minor quibbles.

The set is a simple wooden-panelled round room with very little furniture to detract from the action and dialog - Perfect for the play. The digital trees projected onto the safety curtain are mesmerising, calming the audience down for the slow pace of the play to follow.

Demand has been high for Stewart and McKellen's return to the London stage after their tremendous Waiting for Godot of a few years ago. Tickets are pretty much sold out and it is no wonder - To see these two compelling stars of the stage and screen perform is amazing regardless of what they do. It is a bit puzzling that they have chose this rather abstract play but as they perform you can see why it was chosen with it's rich dialog simply eaten up and delivered with such passion by the leads…Incredible.

Rating:

Review Date: 2016-10-23



Wyndham's Theatre

Location: London (England)

Address: Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0DA

Public Transport: TUBE Leicester Square

Telephone: +44 (0) 844 482 5120

URL: http://www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk/Theatres/wyndhams_theatre.asp

Located in the middle of the west end immediately beside Leicester Square tube station. The public areas of the lobby and bar are very small meaning that it is quite often crowded entering with large slow queues particularly to the circle and balcony. The smaller (but not tiny) auditorium is Victorian with very comfortable seats with generally good visibility throughout.