Flaccid threesome

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 December, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 December, 1995, 12:00am

OLD TIMES, by Harold Pinter Queen's Cafe Company, Fringe Club FIRST produced in 1971, Old Times was performed in London this year with Julie Christie playing Kate. The play is classic Pinter - theatrically poetic and carrying the theme of an external force intruding on an established routine.


In Old Times, this menacing force is represented by a glamorous woman visiting an established married couple.


Anna, an old friend and flatmate of Kate's, comes to her seaside home and interrupts and challenges her marital tranquility.


A successful production of this play should present a vivid clash of personalities between the husband and Anna as they spar over Kate, claiming her in overlapping memories as they vie for ownership of both her past and her present.


The overall mood should be one of confused nostalgia warped by chronological and sexual ambiguity.


The audience should be left wondering whether the set up between the three characters is a menage a trois or the re-enactment of a nightmare.


The interaction between the husband, played by Colin Page, and the house guest Anna, played by Clare Hall, lacked tension.


Where was the sexual charge between them, the acid scent of rivalry? Clare Hall looked like Anna, attractive, sophisticated, potentially dangerous, but she was too manicured to pose a real threat, too well brought up to be a marriage wrecker.


The musical joust between her and the husband over Kate was significantly flaccid - the two characters tossing rather than hurling snatches of popular song at each other in wavery voices.


Colin Page lacked the range that should have taken him from sexual attraction to fury at Anna's attempts to claim ownership of his wife.


Both actors needed more dangerous performances coaxed from them.


Sue Page played Kate, the wife, as a woman who appeared detached from both her husband and her old friend.


Her signature pose had her staring ironically into the middle distance while her two rivals sparred weakly with each other - the chemistry that must once have bubbled and seethed between her and Anna now completely fizzled out.


The poetry of the play, its chronological ambiguity, the dreamlike quality of fractured time, eluded this Queen's Cafe production.


The ambiguous mood of invented nostalgia, so important for the theme and texture of the play, under-realised.


This, along with a lack of dramatic tension between the actors robbed Colin Cresswell's production of that mesmerising and unsettling feeling one experiences after sitting through a Pinter play.