Inside the ‘Dumb Waiter’


Two hit men waiting to find out what the name of their target is for the evening, wait in the cellar of a restaurant. Between them, a dumb waiter occasionally sends down orders for Greek dishes they cannot pronounce and they send up the only supplies they have with them – Eccles cakes. And then, “there’s a twist”, promises director Tom White.

In the space of the Burton Taylor Studio, they have tried to create a constrained area, so that every square meter of space is contested by the two characters and a sense of “claustrophobia” is created. Usually on separate sides of the room, the space in front of the dumb waiter , the smal lift for carrying food to the restaurant above, is a dangerously neutral area, where the power struggle between the two characters is most evident.

It is “completely absurd”, one of the actors tells me. Matches in envelopes slide inexplicably under doors, whilst the pair discuss their instructions. for the assassination. “I’ve always been an ardent football fan,” says one of the hitmen, Gus, played by Adam Leonard. Kicking his heels he wonders whether it would be possible to catch a game of the Villa whilst up in Birmingham. Ben, played by Tom Marshall, continues to read his newspaper, reading out an excerpt every now and again.

A seasoned actor on Oxford’s theatre scene, this is Tom White’s directorial debut. It is a “short, tight play”, he says, meaning that during rehearsals the focus could really be on the details of the acting and the play itself.

An intimate two-hander, the relationship between the two characters is particularly important and they have had time to focus on “how they work together.” It’s been “quite intense” as a rehearsal process, the cast tell me, focusing on every inflection, every movement, between the two of them.

And it seems to have worked – the pair work well together, with a strong repartee and impeccable comic timing. Both have strong stage presences which makes the power struggle between them particularly convincing and interesting to watch unfold. Already looking slick and well-rehearsed, their relationship is entirely believable, maintaing a natural credibility even amongst the more absurd elements surrounding them.

Pinter’s ‘The Dumb Waiter’ promises absurdity, laughter and claustrophobia, a play of underlying politics and dark comedy. An earlier Pinter play which is often considerd to be one of his best, this production will certainly do it justice. Sharp, funny, well-acted, this play seems guaranteed to entertain – a production not to be missed.

Not to mention that when rehearsing in The Three Goats Heads one evening, a customer said they “sounded really good” – what more recommendation could you need?

‘The Dumb Waiter’ is playing at the Burton Taylor Studio from January 27th – January 31st at 9:30