I'll tell you what, I love going to see local theatre when it works . I still think it tends to cost a bit much, but when it works , it's even worth it. And with "The Caretaker", Pepper's Ghost (winner of Best MK Theatre Company at last year's Monkey Kettle Awards, of course!) have made it a record of Played 2, Won 2.
I'll tell you what else, mind - there's also nothing quite as bad as a great play done badly, which is why it was a double relief that their production of Pinter's early classic hit all the right buttons. It's an excellent play, full of subtlety and dark humour, but that all came across with this performance, aptly hosted on the old proscenium stage upstairs at MADCAP.
One of my favourite facets of local theatre is when you see people you know and have worked with before stretching themselves, exploring different avenues of characterisation and technique, and this was a brilliant example of that. Richard Duncombe, in reality a beautifully-spoken acting veteran, was superb as Davies, the jabbering and weaselly tramp, seemingly able to conjure up gallons of drool subconsciously to backlight his confused ramblings. I asked him afterwards how he managed it, but he honestly didn't seem to know. I must try it myself...
Steve McNeil, himself in real life a chirpy and cuddly young buck, gave the character of Mick an air of barely-restrained violence coupled with a real love of the humour of much of his dialogue. And while I don't know Alex Williamson who played his brother Aston, my assumption is that in real life he is not much like the monotonously calm and level man he portrayed. At least I hope not! All three resisted the usual temptation to overplay at this level, and Alex as Aston especially hit just the right level of restraint to really draw you into the complexity of the character.
It would be difficult anyway to pick a Man of the Match out of the three actors, and usually I'd hedge my bets, but luckily there's an equally excellent fourth choice with this show: the lights! I've been lucky enough to see much of Jason's work over the years, including making my follow-spot debut under him over a decade back, but his work on "The Caretaker" was outstanding! So well did his setup recreate the exact dying light of a sunny day into an old broken-down building that I genuinely believed that they'd pulled the curtains aside and were using the real windows to the stage left, overlooking Glyn Square. Each successive scene carried on the realism of the various times of day and night - and it's not like me to get overenthusiastic about lights, which tells you how good they really were!
So, thumbs up all round - another good choice from Pepper's Ghost, and one which they were more than equal to the challenge of. If you haven't checked them out yet, keep your eyes peeled - putting the "theatre" back into "local theatre".