The Caretaker, Ensemble Theatre | Review

Don’t have time to read the full review? Click here for a quick summary of the who, what, where and wine of this production.

When Aston asks a down-on-his-luck Davies to be a live-in caretaker in his rundown house, he jumps at the opportunity to better his life. The only trouble is, Davies doesn’t know what a caretaker does. So when Aston’s difficult past is revealed, and his manipulative brother Mick shows up with big plans for the house, Davies sees an opportunity to disrupt their fragile relationship for his own gain, and avoid his caretaking duties (whatever they are) altogether.

Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker offers comedy, absurdism and drama in close to a three-hour bundle of rambling conversations, all of which take place in a single junk-filled room that will keep you hooked to curtain close.

That is, if this is the play for you.

The Caretaker isn’t one of those productions that will suit anyone and everyone. if you rely on a clearly defined plot, you need to let that go in order to appreciate the subtlety of Pinter’s writing. While there are markers of time passing, and clear conflicts and resolutions between the characters, the core purpose of the story is just to get to know Aston, Mick and Davies in the context of their interactions with each other.

Each has their own low-stakes pursuits – Davies wants a good pair of shoes, Aston wants to build a shed in the backyard, and Mick wants to renovate his flat. These recurring topics of conversation form the absurdist component of the production and lay a foundation over which Pinter layers more serious topics – most prominently Davies’ selfishness in actively undermining Mick and Aston’s relationship for his own benefit, and ultimately to his own downfall – turning it into literary drama.

The stellar cast is what makes this production as good as it is. Darren Gilshenan as Davies absolutely believes in his ability to fake it till he makes it, though I doubt the removal of most of the racist diatribes from the 1960s script would have gravely impacted the audience’s impression of his character; Anthony Gooley as Aston is serene and kind, but haunted, his mid-show monologue intensely emotional; and Henry Nixon is truly terrifying as the volatile Mick, never revealing until the last moment if he intends to act as friend or foe.

Their costumes reflect their vastly different personas. Davies clearly only owns one set of clothes and to say they’re not in good nick would be a vast understatement, while Aston is very proper and presentable. The two beds we see them occupy in the small apartment are similarly styled, Davies’ bed relatively unkempt and Aston’s always neat and tidy. Mick’s leather jacket and gelled hair betray him as the rebel brother, in need of a redeeming path.

Trapped in a single small room crammed with junk of all kinds, with only each other to play off and a mountain and a half of dialogue between them, Gilshenan, Gooley and Nixon elevate even the most innocuous musings to find greater meaning in the mundanity of the everyday. A fantastic adaptation of Pinter’s work, and a great show to test out your theatre aesthetic on – whether it’s ultimately for you or not, it’ll definitely make you think.

Purchase tickets to The Caretaker here.

Wine Pairing | Muscat

Something about the cramped quarters, tense relationships and olden-day costumes made me think what these characters need is a nightcap, and I am personally partial to a Muscat over all other varietals due to its beautiful balance of sweetness and strength.

My Pick: Di Lusso 2015 Muscat Dopo Cena, Mudgee, NSW

This Muscat is palatable to even the most hostile of dinner parties, boasting rich chocolate and date flavours. If that fails, fortified wine also has a little more alcohol in it – but hopefully, that’s not why you’re drinking it!

Pick up a bottle from the winemaker here.

The Caretaker, Ensemble Theatre | Tasting Notes

Aussie Season14 Oct to 19 Nov, Ensemble Theatre
Ticket $$38-80
WriterHarold Pinter
DirectorIain Sinclair
Theatre Type & Genreabsurd, drama
See it if you likeWaiting for Godot, period plays
Other Info Content warning: This play contains historical language that audiences may find offensive.
Wine PairingMuscat
Criteria for Wine Pairingsweet, rich, fortified
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