The Gate Theatre in Dublin are on a roll at the moment; in fact, with the unique tour to 32 counties with Waiting For Godot, they are on a lap of honour. Their current production of Harold Pinter’s 1975 hit, No Man’s Land, before its London revival with same cast. And with a stellar cast of Michael Gambon, David Bradley, Nick Dunning and Little Britain co-creator, David Williams, you have box-office magic. So much of theatre survives and thrives on big-name casting and this production delights in Gambon’s fame and William’s first venture into serious theatre.
I am not a particular Pinter fan, although I used to be, but this Rupert Goold directed play hits all the right notes. Gambon is electric and physical as the rich falling-down drunk Hirst. He is luminous and fascinating in a complex role in a complicated play about uncertainty, menace, tension and a foreboding sense of a play happening only in characters’ heads.
It begins with the line – As it is?, as Hirst pours a whiskey for Spooner, a shabby but intellectual poet who could be on the make, out for comfort, profit and more than drink. And ends with the line again from Hirst – I’ll Drink To That.
Spooner is played so well by another Harry Potter star, David Bradley, who is a much under-rated actor. Hirst has two minders like posh Hackney barrow boys, Briggs and Foster. Nick Dunning is splendid as the menacing Briggs and David Williams impresses as the imposing Foster.
In a fine performance note, the eminent critic, Michael Billington (Pinter’s official biographer) writes of Pinter’s touring Ireland in the fifties with Anew McMaster’s famous travelling company – It was off on the road to Skibbereen, Tralee, Dundalk, Sligo, Ballina, Ballyshannon, Athlone and Mullingar, with occasional luxurious pit-stops at the Theatre Royal Waterford and the Opera House in Cork.