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The Dumb Waiter is a one-act play by 2005 Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter written in 1957; it premiered at the Hampstead Theatre Clubmarker, on 21 January 1960. The critically-acclaimed 50th-anniversary stage revival directed by Harry Burton at Trafalgar Studiosmarker, London, from 2 February to 24 March 2007, starred Lee Evans as Gus and Jason Isaacs as Ben.

Plot synopsis

Two hit-men, Ben and Gus are waiting in a basement room for their assignment. Ben is the senior member of the team and is reading a newspaper when the action begins. Gus is the junior member and is tying his shoes as the play opens. Gus asks many questions of Ben as he gets ready for their job and tries to make tea, including questions about their job (Gus seems to be questioning the concept of being a hit-man). They argue over the semantics of "light the kettle" and "put the kettle on". Ben continues reading his paper most of the time, and reads excerpts of it to Gus sometimes, it seems, to change the topic of conversation. Ben gets increasingly more animated in his newspaper story-telling, and Gus's questions become more and more pointed, and at points nearly nonsensical. As the tension rises the physicality of the two players increases accordingly.

In the back of the room is a dumbwaiter, which delivers occasional food orders. This is mysterious and both characters seem to be puzzled as to why these orders keep coming. At one point they send up some snack food that Gus had brought along. As these orders come in, the tension builds to the point where they even come to blows. Ben has to explain to the people above via the dumbwaiter's "speaking tube" that there is no food. This whole sequence is rather odd because the basement is clearly not outfitted for fulfillment of the orders.

Gus leaves the room to get a drink of water in the bathroom, and the dumbwaiter's speaking tube whistles (a sign that there is a person on the other end who wishes to communicate). Ben listens carefully—we gather from his replies that their victim has arrived and is on his way to the room. Ben shouts for Gus, who is still out of the room. The door that the target is supposed to enter from flies open, Ben rounds on it with his gun, and Gus enters, stripped of his jacket, waistcoat, tie and gun. There is a long silence as the two stare at each other before the curtain comes down (the implication is that Gus is the person that Ben has been employed to kill).

Critics have observed that Martin McDonagh, who has acknowledged being influenced by Harold Pinter, seems indebted to the plot of The Dumb Waiter, as well as to its dialogue, in his award-winning 2008 film In Bruges.

Most notable stage productions

London première

As part of a double bill with Pinter's first play, The Room, The Dumb Waiter was first produced at the Hampstead Theatre Clubmarker, in the London Borough of Camdenmarker, on 21 January, 1960. Directed by James Roose-Evans and designed by Michael Young, this production featured the following cast:
  • Ben - Nicholas Selby
  • Gus - George Tovey
It transferred to the Royal Court Theatremarker, opening on 8 March 1960.

Oxford Playhouse revival



50th-anniversary revival



This production was received warmly by several London reviewers, who praised variously its direction, acting, set design, lighting, and sound effects.

Harold Pinter Memorial Celebration/Tribute to Harold Pinter performance

On the evening of 2 May 2009, Isaacs performed the role of Ben again, opposite his Brotherhood co-star (and Tony Award winner) Brian F. O'Byrne (as Gus), in a "rehearsed reading" of The Dumb Waiter. Their reading capped off the Harold Pinter Memorial Celebration being curated by Harry Burton (who had directed Isaacs and Evans at Trafalgar Studios). This Tribute to Harold Pinter co-sponsored by the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center (MESTC), of The Graduate Centermarker of The City University of New York (CUNY), was part of the Fifth Annual PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, held in New York Citymarker, from 27 April to 3 May 2009.

Television films



Notes

See also



References



External links




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