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No Man's Land


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Ardent, discerningly paced and boasting indomitable performances, No Man’s Land is a marvellous production.

Attempting to fully comprehend Harold Pinter’s play is like trying to illustrate life, the universe and nothing. But under the astute direction of Warwick Cooper, much is made lucid in this University of Adelaide Theatre Guild show.

The result is a rich, thrilling work that is splendidly original, filled with wit and structured so ingeniously that figuring out where the story is headed is half the fun.

No man’s land is a kind of limbo place between life, death and nowhere. It’s like a Hotel California where “you can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave”.  Spooner (Michael Baldwin) enters this purgatory when he is invited into the upmarket home of Hirst (John Edge), an ageing but profitable poet whom he met in a pub near Hampstead Heath.

In order to ingratiate himself with his new, well-to-do acquaintance, Spooner rambles on about his experience and observations, about life, art and random thoughts. All the time, the monosyllabic Hirst downs more and more alcohol. Both men are well and truly inebriated when Hirst retires, leaving Spooner to fend for himself.

The play takes on darker tones when Hirst’s two servants or companions arrive. The former genial ambience begins to turn into an atmosphere that is both uninviting and intimidating.

It’s a joy to watch the two cohorts – the creepy, hippy Foster (Matt Houston) and the looming, leather-clad Briggs (Jonathan Pheasant) assume control of the household. For all the talk of friendship, there is no confusing the threat presented by the pair as they protect their master and intimidate Spooner.

Yet there is great humour and poignancy in both the narrative and the performances. All the characters deliver funny lines or paint ludicrous images as they expound upon their memories.

Much of the action has a fantasy feel to it and, this being a Pinter play, almost every word is open to ambiguity of construal. The actors use this indistinctness to paint a surreal picture of life, the universe and nothing.

University of Adelaide Theatre Guild is presenting No Man’s Land at Little Theatre, The Cloisters (off Victoria Drive), Adelaide University, from August 5-9 and 12-16.

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