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A CurtainUp London London Review

Love is an attribute no civil servant worth his salt would give house room to. — Andy
Rear Deborah Findlay as Bel and David Bradley as Andy (Photo: Johan Persson)
Am I alone in thinking that the plays of Harold Pinter have been overrated? The last Pinter play I saw David Bradley in was The Caretaker and he was very good but having seen half a dozen "Caretakers" I really feel I don't have the appetite to see any more.

Moonlight is a minor Pinter play written in 1992 with extensive writer's block after a break of almost 15 years from playwriting and his last full length play. Although it is only 75 minutes long. Moonlight gets a star cast here at the Donmar under the talented young director Bijan Sheibani. So undoubtedly there is amazing talent from performers and director, but the Pinter vehicle seems inadequate with its overly lush, listings of adjectives as Pinter plays with language and repeats some of the Pinteresque word routines from his earlier plays. The title has to be ironic as this play is full of isolation and malice, not the soft glow we associate with the moon.

We are told in the programme notes by Pinter's second wife the author Lady Antonia Fraser that Moonlight is principally about the death of Pinter's mother aged 88 in October 1992. In the play we are asked to believe that Andy (David Bradley) has been a top civil servant who is now confines to his death bed and whose sons refuse to visit him. This surely must hark back to Pinter's split from his son Daniel who changed his name after Pinter left his first wife and Daniel's mother, the luminescent actress Vivien Merchant. She drank herself to death, never recovering from the abandonment of her serially unfaithful husband whom she had forgiven so often.

In Moonlight Deborah Findlay plays the irascible Andy's wife Bel, who sits embroidering at his bedside, a model of passive aggression as she recalls her own relationship with Andy's mistress Maria (Carol Royle). It is also the death of someone without the succour of religion or the warmth and companionship of family and friendship. Andy says "When they look at me they know that I am all that is left of my life." Lisa Diveney plays the ghost child, Bridget the lost daughter who haunts her father's room. Daniel Mays and Liam Garrigan are Jake and Fred the sons who occupy themselves with word games. Liam reflects his father, bed bound, but apathetic and not with clean sheets and a tidy bedroom. Daniel Mays, an actor with heaps of potential is limited by the absurdist writing.

I liked Bijan Sheibani's initial meta-theatrical staging, all the characters lined up at the beginning, standing, before they take their stage places, two into bed and one sitting at the foot of the bed, Bel in a chair and Jake slumped over a table as if to remind us that they are players. Bunny Christie's set allows all scenes to played on the same level with the main family onstage together. There is eerie sinister music, almost musique concrete.

Moonlight is depressing and uninventive with sections of it feeling like merely filler verbiage.

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Written by Harold Pinter
Directed by Bijan Sheibani

Starring: David Bradley, Deborah Findlay, Daniel Mays
With: Lisa Diveney, Liam Garrigan, Carol Royle, Paul Shelley
Designed by Bunny Christie
Lighting: Jon Clark
Composer and Sound: Dan Jones
Running time: One hour 15 minutes without an interval
Box Office: 0844 871 7624
Booking to 28th May 2011
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 13th April 2011 performance at The Donmar Warehouse, Earlham Street, London WC2H 9LX (Tube: Covent Garden)

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