How Pinter in Chichester is "a game of chess" on stage

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Adam Gillen takes to the stage in a Pinter for the first time – with The Caretaker in Chichester’s Minerva Theatre, directed by CFT artistic director Justin Audibert, running from June 8-July 13.

We’re in London, at the tail end of the 1950s, in a derelict room stuffed with junk. Enter two men: the room’s occupant, the gentle and damaged Aston, and Davies, a mercurial drifter. Soon they’re joined by the explosively unpredictable Mick.

“It's very exciting. The play is just so relevant to relationships between families and between partners. It is just so very beautifully observed and the things that he seems to find about the human condition… it's precision detail. His dialogue, once you click into it, is just how we speak which is quite rare in plays. It really feels like a genuine conversation with all the umms and ahhs and the start of a sentence and then you veer off somewhere else with the sentence. It makes it very much more difficult to learn but once it's in the brain then it just seems incredibly natural. You just need to tune into it. You have to just be not fighting the dialogue.

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“This is my first Pinter and you just feel like you're immediately part of the world when you start speaking the words. I've gone back to watch films from that time like Saturday Night Sunday Morning and A Kind Of Loving and I also watched the film of The Caretaker but I didn't pay too much attention to it because we've got to find our own production and make sure that we are doing our own thing but just to get a sense the period was helpful. The claustrophobia was very important and that's something we are feeling our way within our own little set. You've got to have that claustrophobia. We are playing in a room that is really absolutely overwhelmed by stuff and it's very useful to have that stuff around you for the play.”

Adam Gillen - credit Michael ShelfordAdam Gillen - credit Michael Shelford
Adam Gillen - credit Michael Shelford

Adam is playing the character of Aston, collector of the stuff: “Aston collects and collects and collects for an eventuality that just might never happen. It's odds and ends that he wants to fix up and it's like he feels he can't enter into the world until he has fixed all these things but it's a never ending task.” He's a damaged character: “He had a period in the past where he had ECT in his late teenage years. It was some probably some kind of mental health episode and he has become a person afraid of the world and afraid of people and possibly agoraphobic and then he meets Davies and it's his attempt to connect with a human being for the first time in maybe ten years. I think it's the fact that we all want to connect with other people. We can't just exist alone. Something in the human condition drives us to try to find connections.”

The trouble is Davies is a manipulative taker: “You know what you're going into with Pinter. You know you'll be confronted by a number of bleak situations but I do think Pinter also finds the sweetness and the vulnerability in his characters. There is a lot of vulnerability in all of these characters and that's part of the fun. There's this tussle between good and bad and between survival and generosity. It's a chess game. It's three people dancing around each other and trying to work out whether they are friend or foe and what their intentions are.”

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