The Lover

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

03/02/2010 - 13/02/2010

Production Details


A polished, high quality piece of theatre, Harold Pinter’s The Lover is a thought provoking, engaging and oft-ignored medium in the mainstream, theatre’s resurgence; key aspects that play to The Basement’s strengths as it plays from February 3rd.

A one-act play by Harold Pinter, The Lover leads the audience to believe that the wife is openly conducting an adulterous relationship with someone close. The tension lies in the dichotomy of a respectable bourgeois couple indulging in erotic fantasy and how to reconcile carnal desire with social expectations.

The Lover pushes the boundaries of contemporary theatre, injecting new life and a younger, culturally aware audience into the realm of the medium. A creative and stylistic experience of impeccable taste, reinventing theatre as we know it – The Lover moves the scripted word above and beyond what we expect, and into the realm of sex, fashion and art.

Producer Tara Riddell has brought together a visionary, talented young team of creatives to realise her vision for The Lover, resulting in a piece of theatre that is the epitome of a fresh and impeccable design and vision.

Katie Lockhart’s set design is, in itself, a work of art. Award winning costume designer Kirsty Cameron’s work will compliment with subtle enhancement to the story and characters, as does hair and makeup and design courtesy of top fashion salon Stephen Marr. Lead actor, Craig Hall, and actress, Michelle Langstone, bring a depth and sensitivity to the play.

Both have worked with established director Caroline Bell-Booth (TVNZ, Shortland Street), and truly connect with her direction and vision.

This is an exhilarating, titillating and challenging theatrical experience. The audience will leave questioning the nature of their own sexual desires and fantasies, and whether accessing them would be liberating…or frightening.

Harold Pinter’s The Lover plays
3rd – 13th February 2010
The Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Avenue, Auckland CBD
Tickets: $20 (plus applicable booking fees)
Bookings: Book through iTicket – or 09 361 1000

Richard: Craig Hall                                     
Sarah: Michelle Langstone                         
John: Matt MacDougall      
Director: Caroline Bell Booth         
Producer: Tara Riddell
Production Design: Katie Lockhart
Costume Design: Kirsty Cameron
Stage Manager: Pip Smith
Lighting Design: Brad Gledhill
Technical Operator: Michael Craven
Construction: Grant Bailey
Construction: Matt Tompson         
Set Build: Katrina Keashaw
Set Build: Mark Henly
Make Up Design: Amber D from MAC
Hair Design: Mobeen & Matthew from Stephen Marr
Music Design: Automatic
Stills Photographer: Derek Henderson
Print Design: Brogen Averill
PR: Elephant Publicity
PR: Smith & Sumner   

Rediscovering Pinter’s wily psychological traps

Review by Janet McAllister 08th Feb 2010

This version of the send-up of middle-class sexual mores is more than adequate

Leaving for work, a buttoned-up English banker asks his housewife: "Is your lover coming today?" Harold Pinter teasingly sets the scene for his caustic 1963 send-up of middle-class sexual mores with this matter-of-fact question. The wife’s polite answer is: "Yes".

While the couple on stage play polite, needling games with each other, The Lover plays sly perspective games with the audience. Who is hurt? Who is just pretending? Metaphorically speaking, who’s on top? [More]
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When frustration tests fidelity against fulfilment

Review by Nik Smythe 04th Feb 2010

When asked who my favourite playwright is, the name Harold Pinter tends to spring to mind first. Famous for the parts he doesn’t write, his invariably intriguing pieces marry contemporary realism with an uneasy, almost supernatural tension. Not so ‘kitchen sink’ as Berkhoff or Mamet, nor as abstract or absurdist as Beckett or Ionesco; Mr Pinter commands a kind of purgatorial domain in between. 

But not a glossy, idealistic Lovely Bones type in between, rather a more hard-edged, perhaps cynical realm, as visceral as it is ethereal, where thoughts seem louder than spoken words. No one is innocent; everyone is human. Audiences witness their own reflection in the characters’ struggle to express themselves and be heard to their own satisfaction.

This little gem, first staged in 1963, certainly has all of that. Frequently funny, there’s a persistent sense of discomfort that, while falling shy of being menacing, maintains a certain hold on the emotional climate. 

The Lover sees an apparently happy couple engaging in a brazen open marriage. Richard works hard at his well-paid job in the world of high finance, whilst on many an afternoon his wife Sarah wantonly indulges in an adulterous affair with the adventurous, also married Max. Richard himself visits a woman he crudely calls his whore.

Sarah appears to have the best part of the whole deal, so when both Max and Richard start to talk about putting a stop to this years-long arrangement, she responds with the petulance of a spoilt child. Whatever is significant about all that, as well as exactly what the hell is actually going on here, is for us – the voyeuristic spectators – to decipher and/or choose. 

Caroline Bell Booth’s directorial approach creates a heightened reality, with more affected than naturalistic portrayals of the three central roles. Not quite wooden, the characters never quite relax and ‘be’ themselves, perhaps because they can’t quite remember how to…

Michelle Langstone’s Sarah is frankly assertive and coy on-cue. Your classic bored, rich 1950s housewife, her haughty gaze suggests this naughty game of theirs is the only thing keeping her on this side of sanity. 

Whilst Craig Hall isn’t entirely convincing as the properly bred city gent, Richard – his received pronunciation just missing there with certain vowel sounds – his strong presence combined with Pinter’s expert craftsmanship provides plenty to sink one’s teeth into. 

Matt McDougall’s nicely turned 15 seconds of fame is an exercise in expectation-foiling genius, exactly what I love about theatre’s possibilities.

The ingenious production design of Kirsty Cameron interfaces remarkably with Brad Gledhill’s lights. Walls, ceiling, tables, seats and bed et al are all plain brown corrugated cardboard, from which I infer a fragile house-of-cards scenario, though the furniture does turn out to be fully functional.

Music design, credited to ‘Automatic’, garnishes the briefly stark hour perfectly with pure soul-wrenching blues numbers that were often familiar but I couldn’t put a name to.

In the wake of his recent passing (Christmas Eve 2008), I wonder more than usual how Harold himself would find this production, and/or how he intended it to be delivered when he wrote it forty-eight years ago. Needless to say the subjects of fidelity, fulfilment and frustration are timeless in themselves.


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