Review: No Man’s Land

It’s been a crazy long time since I wrote a blog post but I’ve been very busy! I went on holiday to Portugal straight after I saw No Man’s Land, but I bought a notebook and scribbled down some thoughts before I forgot – so hopefully this review won’t be too shabby. However, if you are truly unimpressed then you can jolly well move on to another corner of the internet (no, not that one).

Anyway, No Man’s Land – a play written by the mighty Harold Pinter himself in 1974 and starring two incredible legends: Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. The two men, Hirst (Stewart) and Spooner (McKellen) appear to have met in a pub and ended up at Hirst’s house to continue drinking. The set itself reflects the general mood of this play; a darkened, grand, circular room where the men bounce pointless conversation off each other and never reach a resolution. The circular room and lack of progression from the two men hint at elements of Beckett; a moment in Endgame in particular where Hamm asks Clov to push him around the room stands out:

HAMM:
Take me for a little turn.
(Clov goes behind the chair and pushes it forward.)
Not too fast!
(Clov pushes chair.)
Right round the world!
(Clov pushes chair.)
Hug the walls, then back to the centre again.
(Clov pushes chair.)
And it’s no surprise really, No Man’s Land is considered perhaps one of Pinter’s most absurdest plays – so a lot of parallels can be drawn from Beckett. In fact, Pinter himself described this play as “hauntingly weird” and that he “can never fully understand – who can? But it works on you.”
Well that sums it up really. The whole play is a slow-moving drudge through whatever these men are trying to achieve. Not going to lie, it was confusing. In act 1, Hirst is a little worse for wear and is far from impressed by Spooner’s ever more outrageous tales; Hirst eventually leaves, crawling out of the room, completely inebriated. Two younger men then enter, Foster (Damien Molony) and Briggs (Owen Teale) which shifts the whole power structure; a previously very chatty Spooner is silenced by the menacing presence of these men. From what I can gather from this scene, it is partly about the physical decline of Hirst and Spooner as they have gotten older; Hirst exits by crawling weakly on his hands and knees, while the two younger men assert their dominance over this unknown man in their house by physically threatening him.
nomansland_04
(From left to right) Ian McKellen, Damien Malony, Owen Teale, Patrick Stewart. Sourced from Delfont Mackintosh Theatre website.
The second act is a huge improvement as Hirst enters into the room the next morning as if nothing has happened; their roles switch. Hirst is now bright, refreshed and talkative. He makes up wild tales about sleeping with Spooner’s wife – a power play much favoured by Pinter; the ownership of women. Like in Pinter’s play, The Homecoming, there are a lack of female roles, so they must perform the typical ‘domestic’ roles around the home, which threatens their masculinity. There’s also an element of intellectual competition; although the two older men can no longer assert physical dominance, they are both writers, so fight it out that way. Yet, they are constantly crippled by their poor memory.
It’s terribly existentialist, which I have no problem with, but it can leave you feeling empty. There’s a reference near the end to the seasons and it remaining winter forever – unmoving from no man’s land:
No man’s land…does not move…or change…or grow old..remains…forever…icy…silent.”
This is much like how Beckett refers to the passing of time (or not as the case may be). It’s a heavy performance with a few laughs throughout, but very tough to follow. Naturally, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are excellent, but I didn’t warm to the play at all – yet again, that’s never Pinter’s intention in the first place.
Confusing man.
The tableau at the end speaks for itself; Hirst and Spooner are front and left, whereas Foster and Briggs are in the background by the bar. The older men are always at the forefront leading the way, while the younger generation can only look on and attempt to replicate.
Although well executed, the play really wasn’t for me. I mean, if Pinter himself didn’t get it, then I don’t stand a chance in hell.
So I’ll just leave it at that.
If you liked this then please follow my blog and check out my ramblings on Twitter @tesshenderson94 🙂
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