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[] [work index] [theatre] [The Caretaker 1991]

The Caretaker by Harold Pinter (also director)

Cast:  Donald Pleasence, Peter Howitt and Colin Firth 

On tour prior to opening in London:

Theatre Royal, Newcastle ........ 7 - 11 May 1991
Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham ........ 14 - 18 May 1991
?, Bradford? ........ 21- 25 May 1991?
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford ........ 3 - 8 June 1991
Theatre Royal, Bath ........ 14- 18 June 1991
Comedy Theatre, London ........ from 20 June

Production photographs: Ivan Kyncl

Comedy Theatre programme cover design by Andrzej Klimowski

Rehearsal photographs as originally published in the programme from the Theatre  Royal, Newcastle.



B/w photographs from the play as in the Comedy Theatre programme.




Colin Firth on playing Aston:
from THE EVENING STANDARD, 14 June 1991 ("The Forte of Firth")

"I adored the play and wanted to work with Pinter and Pleasence," says Colin Firth. "But I wasn't sure I wanted to play another character with problems. I thought I might find it depressing."

After playing a brain-damaged Falklands soldier in Tumbledown and a shell-shocked soldier in A Month in the Country, the role of Aston, the retarded brother in Harold Pinter's The Caretaker, did not immediately appeal. "I felt I wanted to play D'Artagnan instead. I thought I'd like to lighten up a bit at some point."

But during rehearsals, a curious thing happened. "I've fallen totally in love with the character. He's really one of the most happy and hopeful characters I've played. He's supremely generous. There's a real purity about him."

Excerpts from reviews published in London in mid-June 1991:
(With grateful thanks to Lisa W. from N.Z. for help with this compilation.)

From THE TIMES (21st June 1991)
"Taking Care of Death in Sidcup"
a review by Benedict Nightingale

[...] Pinter's production emphasises the vulnerability of youth as well as age, casting unusually young actors as the brothers. Peter Howitt's Mick might be a leather-clad tough leaving the pub for a game at Highbury; but there is burning disappointment in him, too, as well as covert affection for Colin Firth's Aston, whose blank face and flat, dull voice mask a desperate attempt to clamber out of chaos. The smile they exchange while Davies flounders justifies John Arden's remark, that one of the play's subjects is "the strength of family ties against an intruder." What can we call so subtle, suggestive and fascinating a piece but a classic?

"Same bruises thirty years on"
by John Gross

[...] ...There are excellent performances, too, from Peter Howitt and Colin Firth as the brothers. [...] Firth is wholly convincing as Aston, especially in the long, calm, chilling account of his experiences at the hands of the doctors.

"Pinter with heart"
a review by Charles Spencer

[...] As the older brother Aston, Colin Firth's hypnotic account of the terrifying treatment he received in a mental hospital sends the shivers coursing down the spine, and throughout, with his ugly voice and awkward posture, he movingly captures the character's wounded inadequacy, diffident charity and aching need for friendship.


"Pinter's Clash of Symbols"
a review by Michael Billington

[...] Colin Firth's Aston, suffering from electric shock treatment, is a touching portrait of a gentle, slow-moving giant reminiscent of a different Lennie in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.


"Sidcup or bust?"
a review by Annalena McAfee

[...] Colin Firth's touching Aston has an unexpected dignity. He summons pathos as much from his considered reflections on Guinness (heartbreakingly, Davies responds with a comment on the weather) as with his account of his terrible experiences in a psychiatric hospital.[...]

"Pinter's potent poetic power"
by Jack Tinker

[...] Impressive too, are the contrasting performances of Colin Firth, compellingly still and passively impregnable as the tramp's gentle host, and Peter Howitt [...]

[? unknown publication]
"The Merchant of Menace as victim"
by Maureen Paton

[...] As his lobotomised brother Aston, Colin Firth has the brooding look of a man whose brain has been truly disconnected.

[? unknown publication]
"In good order"
by Paul Taylor

[...] As Mick and Aston, Peter Howitt and Colin Firth are both excellent.

[...] Like some gentle, diffident giant, Firth, with his awkward postures and nerd-like voice, contributes a remarkable study of a loneliness that seems to have put the sufferer beyond the reach of help or intimidation.
[...] the USA (in reports from London):
From THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 22 September 1991
"Play it again: two oldies enter stage left on British theater scene"
by Matt Wolf

[...] The four major Pinter revival in the last six months, this is the first to bear the author's own imprimatur. Pinter as director [has] been canny enough in casting at least one of his supporting roles to make sure Pleasence meets his thespian match. That role is the part of Aston, the cleaner (relatively) and more respectable of the brothers and the more apparently kindly. As played by Colin Firth, a fine actor still awaiting the film stardom for which he was once touted (he starred opposite Annette Bening in Milos Forman's ill-fated "Valmont"),  Aston has the evening's single finest moment: a heart-stopping recollection of his experience in electroshock therapy that makes clear that this character, too, is one of the walking wounded.

a review by Matt Wolf:
[...] The production's great surprise is Firth, a fine actor whose film career (Apartment Zero, the ill-fated Valmont) has not yet lived up to its expected promise. As Aston, the one who initially invites Davies to his brother's shabby West London flat, Firth dazzlingly fields the evening's set piece: a heart-stopping monologue about receiving electroshock therapy. Remembering a time when people used to "listen to the things I said," the actor projects a poignant sense of propriety gone to seed; he's as lost and as needful of care as the tramp whom he has rescued from a brawl.
And in the play's best moment, Pinter knows how to raise the temperature even as he lowers the lights -- Aston's painful recollection of his own past represents lucidity in that brief period before all the characters' lives began to dim. a book:
Michael Billington, writing about 1991 theatrical revivals of Pinter's plays, in "The Life and Work of Harold Pinter" published by Faber and Faber Ltd, London, 1996:

[...] the author's own production of "The Caretaker" [...] opened at the Comedy on 20 June [...] the great gain was the casting of Peter Howitt and Colin Firth as Mick and Aston: the one a flashy, leather-jacketed bruiser [...]; the other a gentle slow-moving, lobotomised giant.  [...] it's hard to imagine [other actors] bettering Howitt and Firth: two looming six-footers with similar strong-jawed faces and quite plausibly brothers. [...]

Harold Pinter

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last update: may 20, 2004
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