The Hothouse*** (Trafalgar Studios 1, 7 May 2013)

Posted: May 7, 2013 in Theatre

It seems that Harold Pinter intended this 1958 play to be a Kafkaesque satire on authoritarianism and human rights violations, aiming it specifically at the Soviet Union. However, it comes across as more typical of Joe Orton than of the style that was to become Pinter’s trademark and, if there are indeed serious themes, they are well and truly submerged in Jamie Lloyd’s production, which is performed as broad comedy throughout. The establishment of the title is some sort of state-run rest home, managed by a ridiculous martinet (Simon Russell Beale) and his scheming lieutenant (John Simm). This clown/straight man double act dominates the production, squeezing every possible laugh out of a script which mixes verbal gymnastics with physical slapstick. It all has the feel of a very protracted sketch from “The Two Ronnies”; but that was a very funny show and, for much of the time, so is this.

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