Landscape / A Kind of Alaska
By Harold Pinter
Directed by Janet Podd
17th - 19th May 2012
7th / 8th February 2013
Maltings Arts Theatre, St Albans
A couple describe the vital scenery of their lives in a series of reflections. Landscape is a beautiful and graphic portrait of physical nearness and emotional separation.
A middle-aged woman wakes up after thirty years passed in a coma induced by sleeping sickness. Inspired by Oliver Sacks’ Awakenings, A Kind of Alaska is a lament for lost years and wasted time.
Placing a microscope on how we communicate in relationships, Harold Pinter’s language - spare, unadorned, bound like music by pause and silence - draws us, with remarkable intensity, into the lives of the characters he presents.
Two of a kind
24th May 2012
THEATRE audiences in St Albans were clearly more than happy to turn out for a performance of two fairly obscure one-act plays by the master wordsmith Harold Pinter at the Maltings Arts Theatre last week.
For even though A Kind of Alaska and Landscape have little or no action, the audience for the OVO production on Friday night was clearly riveted by both plays.
And they were right to be so because the five performers, directed by Janet Podd, threw themselves heart and soul into their roles despite the ambiguity in the meaning of both plays.
A Kind of Alaska is, in many ways, the more interesting of the two plays. It was based on an outbreak of sleeping sickness in the winter of 1916-17 which spread throughout Europe.
Deborah is one such victim and we meet her as she awakes after 29 years asleep – but the woman who wakes is still the little girl in her head who first fell asleep.
As she tries to unravel her life and what she has missed, the picture is complicated even more by the fact that her loyal doctor is the husband of her sister Pauline.
Jo Emery is very believable in the role of Deborah – a demanding role which requires her to be both woman and child struggling to understand what has befallen her.
Kieran Cummins is suitably serious as Hornby, the doctor who has watched over her for nearly 30 years and has found a way to revive her after all that time.
His marriage to Deborah’s sister Pauline, played by Esther Wane, is a conundrum and one which Deborah struggles to understand as both her sister and brother-in-law only allow her to know what they want her to.
The play concludes on the nearest to a positive note as Deborah concludes, “I think I have the matter in proportion.”
Landscape features husband and wife Beth and Duff sitting at each side of a kitchen table, ruminating about their lives but neither of them hearing the other’s voice.
So while Alison Wright’s Beth reminisces about a relationship on a beach in a soft voice, Adam Nichols’ Duff is loud and blustery as he tries to bring her back to her relationship with him.
We do not know if the lover on the beach was a younger Duff – although it is hard to believe it was – but as a portrait of a couple poles apart yet still together physically if in no other way, it is a tour de force.
Alison and Adam are a good contrast to each other – she in a world of romanticism and he with his feet firmly on the ground.
OVO promised to keep on producing innovative and imaginative performances when they took over the running of the Maltings Arts Theatre and so far, they have lived up to that pledge comfortably.
A Kind of Alaska
Deborah - Jo Emery
Hornby - Kieran Cummins
Pauline - Esther Wane
Beth - Alison Wright
Duff - Adam Nichols