The Caretaker makes me think of David Henry Thoreau’s famous quote: The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.
The three men in Harold Pinter’s play The Caretaker, all seem to fit into that category. The title character, Davies, a homeless man of dubious identity, is nervous as a rabbit and yet capable of manipulating others with his cunning. Ashton, who brings Davies to his home after rescuing him from a fight, supports the fulcrum of the play with his monologue on what it was like to be subjected to shock therapy, an event that has left him brain-damaged. And his brother Mick, large and intimidating, has big dreams which are never going to be fulfilled.
To say these characters interact with each other might be stating the case too strongly. But Davies is always on stage, the other two come and go, and there is conversation, or perhaps talking at each other might be a better way to put it. Paul Fauteux is nothing less than brilliant, alternating obsequiousness and belligerence, and breaking the tension with his non-sequiturs. RJ Peters is defined as much by what he does not say, as by his amazingly long and definitive speech in Act 2. And Lindsay Robinson, with an abundance of bravado and bullying tactics, seems to fill not only the stage, but also the entire auditorium.
There is humour here, of the darker kind, and only, as the playwright once put it, ‘up to a point.’ Definitely not the thigh-slapping, rolling-in-the-aisles, kind of funny, but enough to lighten the mood and to keep the tone in balance.
The set and costume designer (Patrick du Wors) and the sound designer (Hank Pine) are due an enormous amount of praise for the success of this show. The cluttered, leaky attic where the action takes place, is immensely graphic. Even the longest stretch of the imagination could not make it into the penthouse which Mick envisions. And the music and whatever else comes through the sound system is largely responsible for the sense of foreboding and menace which defines The Caretaker.
This performance is so thoroughly gripping that I could even forgive the 12-minute delay in the start time, resulting in an even later night than anticipated. I have seen most of the Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre’s offerings over the past eight years or so, all of which have been excellent, but this one is absolutely superlative.
The Caretaker runs at the Roxy Theatre until May 7. You can even turn in your ticket toward a Blue Pass for the entire season and save 10%. bluebridgetheatre.ca or 250-382-3370.