Close this search box.

thank you nicholas. ‘the caretaker’

Production photos: Sanja Vukelja

The power of the personal was how I ended up sitting in a Saturday afternoon matinee of THE CARETAKER at Riverside Theatres.  Nicholas Papademetriou talked me into it; you can see the interview with him here.  For me, Harold Pinter’s classic work comes with a certain amount of baggage … leftovers from the 1960s when it was new, when the ‘Pinter Pause’ dominated, when abstract work and non-sequiturs were not as common on the stage.   Instead of baggage, this production has clutter, dirt and performances groomed into deterioration.  It is an achievement of modern relevance in a rigorously truthful reflection of the play’s heritage.                        

It is 1960 in the attic room of an old West London terrace house and a vagrant, Davies, is given a bed for the night by the room’s occupant, Aston (Yalin Ozucelik).  Slow and settled, Ashton contributes little to the new, almost one sided, inhabiting of the space.  More impacting on the room is Ashton’s brother Mick (Alex Bryant-Smith) who arrives in due course. With his bovver boy boots, jeans and white vest, his is a menacing presence in action and intent.

On entry, Papademetriou as Davies has an appalling bravado at his self-perceived little act of fight-back and as the play progresses and territory is redefined and allegiances warp, his weakness and disorder wraps tight as he expands.    Papademetriou’s musicality of expression in the rhythms and cadences of Pinter’s dialogue and monologues is rich but accented short of lyric.  He lengthens syllables in words like heeere and birrrd to provide a very enjoyable, understated, scansion of text.

Ozucelik, however, gives Aston a halted speech pattern, not stutter but brainlimited, considered and planned before uttered.  This and Aston’s behaviour is somewhat explained later in the show but Ozucelik’s early reaching out in small measure is evoked with subtlety and an alertness which peeks through the impassivity.  He never takes his eyes of Davies at first, hungry for connection and directly perks out of his closed self when something in Davies’ babble takes his interest.

While Bryant-Smith does give Mick the required menace, there is also a lurking and insidious proprietaryness about his entry into Anton’s room.  Based around events after interval, this assumption of power serves to bind together a character which can shape-shift and be easily endowed by others.

Bryant-Smith and Papademetriou directed the piece and among the considerable achievements of THE CARETAKER is the placement of the comedy, the variety and through line of the pace and the bedrock of relationships upon which the themes are built.   Nothing is simple here, these characters sense what is going on and we, the audience, are left to catch up with brow- furrowed engagement.  The inner is available in text and man.  Plus, the cruelty, when it begins, when ‘oh man’ becomes ‘hey boy’, stuns still; even after the previously unacceptable utterances.

The directors have negotiated the power dynamics with movement, even sending the occasional person out of the confines of the filthy checkerboard floor.  In one echoing, rhythmic, sequence a bag becomes a metaphor of generosity and belittlement.  The story doesn’t flag as nothing happens yet everything is on the move.  They have also discreetly plumped the mystery element as the audience is drawn into consideration of outcomes.

Stephanie Howe’s set design draws on wall shadow boxes of the period to compartmentalise the backdrop with a wall of boxes.  The items therein, thoughtfully aligned with Ashton despite the evident haphazard.  The drama of a prop kitchen sink is skilfully inserted and there are several clever historical puns to be enjoyed.  Similarly Howe’s costumes are not about the garment but how it is worn.  A buttoned up cardigan and a flung grime of a  scarf tells much.

From the first water drop to the interval rain, the audio from Glenn Braithwaite reinforces the story allowing the themes to emerge organically.  The lighting (Sophie Pekbilimli) also avoids excessive mood setting, preferring to isolate the action in an imperative wash in blue and amber with a very discrete hit of understated reds.  The colour choices for the dominant feature of the space, the window, serve to lift the wash and provide an idea of time passing.

THE CARETAKER has electric moments which put the art of performance on arresting display but the triumph of this production is its lack of boredom.  That’s what I was expecting and instead I was treated to a production of presence .  I can’t thank Nicholas enough for encouraging me to go and it seems appropriate to play it forward.  Go and see THE CARETAKER.

THE CARETAKER from Throwing Shade Theatre Company and theatrongroup has finished its season at Riverside Theatres and will play Glen Street Theatre from February 28.


Subscribe to our Bi-Weekly Newstetter

Sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter to receive updates and stay informed about art and cultural events around Sydney. – it’s free!

Want More?

Get exclusive access to free giveaways and double passes to cinema and theatre events across Sydney. 

Scroll to Top