REVIEW: The Caretaker, Nuffield Southampton Theatres

HAROLD Pinter’s 1960 hit The Caretaker is brought bang up-to-date while retaining all of its relevance and absurdity, even gaining more along the way.

The play’s themes — class divides, homelessness, mental health, power and corruption — are evergreen. There will always be current events in the real world to provide a mirrored backdrop. Director Christopher Haydon’s adaptation takes full advantage, with modern costume and smartphones while following the script to the letter.

The irony isn’t lost on the audience when the overtly racist Davies, played by Sierra Leonean Patrice Naiambana, rants in a strong West African accent. Then again, it may be the all-black cast that makes such lines land more comfortably.

A few funny moments litter the two-and-a-half-hour performance, with the rest of the time devoted to developing the three — all very different, all entrancing — characters. Naiambana wows with his dynamic performance, as ruffian Davies seeks to play brothers Aston (Jonathan Livingstone of War Horse and ex-Holby City) and Mick (Judge).

Livingstone’s Aston is the least graspable of the three, the shell-shocked electro-convulsive therapy victim; quiet and lost in himself. But it is perhaps Judge’s portrayal of Mick that is most shocking. As he pounces and saunters his way around the stage, he also commands the most empathy as he hopelessly fantasises about doing up the dilapidated flat.

Even as Mick resorts to bullyboy tactics to assert his dominance and switches from nice to nasty in a matter of seconds, his attempt at evil often comes across as a tragic appeal for control — seemingly an intentional move by Judge.

The set design looks positively Disneyfied. Chairs, books and filing cabinets are strung from the rafters, the beds are lopsided and look impossible to sleep on and practically everything except the kitchen sink is on view.


The Caretaker runs until Saturday. Tickets: 023 8067 1771 or