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"Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have
lighted fools
The way to dusty death. "
(Macbeth: Act V Scene V)

'No Man's Land' by Harold Pinter

April 2019

Directed by: David Hemsley-Brown
Design by: David Hemsley-Brown
Lighting by: Alex Lyon
Sound by: Alex Lyon
Cast: Steve Alais, Richard Parish, Nick Lund and David Webb

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A house near Hampstead Heath. Night. Two men in a room. Do Hirst and Sooner know each other or is each performing an elaborate charade of recognition? The ambiguity and the comedy intensify with the arrival of Briggs and Foster, the one ostensibly a manservant, the other a male secretary. All four inhabit a no man’s land between reality and imagination – a territory which Pinter explores with his customary wit and skill.

“… a living theatrical experience full of rich comedy… (Michael Billington, The Guardian)

Written in 1974, Harold Pinter’s No Man's Land has been brought to The Mill Studio, a venue at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre which presents plays and fringe theatre to an auditorium of around eighty. The Lighted Fools Theatre Company was formed in 2002 and No Man's Land is its 32nd production.
No Man’s Land begins with the audience dropping in on a conversation between two older gentlemen who seem to have just met that evening in a Hampstead pub. They are drinking heavily. Hirst, the owner of the house, and Spooner – who introduces himself as a poet – long-windedly explains how he is perceptive in all areas of life. As the drinking continues Spooner goads Hirst, pushing for and getting a reaction with Hirst throwing a glass in frustration. Soon after, Hirst collapses and crawls out of the room. The night grows more complicated when two younger men – Foster and Briggs – return to the house. They question Spooner who has suddenly gone very quiet. Hirst returns refreshed and unsure of the day. The intense conversations continue throughout the night and, the following day, we learn of many strange and surreal reminiscence of the four men's lives.
Lighted Fools’ quartet – Richard Parish (Hirst), Steve Alais (Spooner), Nick Lund (Foster) and David Webb (Briggs) – are believable and very competent in their roles. With such a small cast there is nowhere to hide and with actors performing near-monologues on occasion and for long periods of time, despite the subject matter being excessive and deep, respective acting skills keep the audience completely engaged and wanting more. Nick Lund also displays good awareness of comic timing making some quite serious moments humorous. That’s Pinter for you!
I'm really impressed with the design and feel of the set which was arranged by David Hemsley-Brown. It's perfect for the script, realistic, and has all the elements of a stately home. This extends to costumes by Gill Parish, where the characters are instantly recognisable by what they are wearing and each person dressed in a creative ensemble. Director, David Hemsley-Brown, is clearly experienced in directing Pinter; I imagine this type of interpretation is challenging and complex but equally as rewarding. He has done an incredible job.
This unique and bewildering play is packed with drama and confusion, and there is no definitive explanation of exactly what is happening. I believe it's down to you, the viewer, to make your own mind up. My opinion is it's a world between life and death and possibly mostly in the mind of one character, Hirst. But it leaves me with lots of unanswered questions. I could watch this play many times and come away with a different set of unanswered questions each time. This was a thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining performance of an outstanding play.

Harold Pinter's work has been described as 'the comedy of menace' and his play No Man's Land certainly projects unease. It's a journey into the landscape of a mind but the startling question is, whose mind? Is it Harold Pinter's, the director's or the watcher's? David Hemsley-Brown, as director, kept me guessing at the Mill Studio last week. His approach for the Lighted Fools production was satisfying as it twisted and tightened.
No Man's Land seems to demand an interpretation but Pinter sets a trap; is it a drama? Is it a comedy? Is it psycho-sexual exploration? Could it be all three? Probably.
The play opens with two men and a blatant pick-up close to Hampstead Heath! Hirst (Richard Parish) has enticed a man back to his home and reveals himself as a dominant alpha male to Steve Alais' submissive Spooner but just as we position the 'arrangement' Spooner's intellect kicks-in and the question arises as to who is really in charge?
Pinter teases with certainties and then demolishes them. Watching this play is not a passive entertainment.
A strong cast was in support with Nick Lund swaggering through as Foster - is he a Pimp? Rent Boy ? Escort? Pinter describes him as 'a vagabond cock' but Lund offered a back-story that hinted too at psychopath.
David Webb, as Briggs the butler and bouncer, dry-cleans Hirst through his drunken excesses; his directions to Bolsova Street "Turn left, then right, pass the office block with a crescent courtyard …." deftly exploited Pinter's strong lyrical input.
Richard Parish anchored the production with a finely calibrated performance but Steve Alais, as the diffident Spooner, had the role, had the director and had the evening.


It was an excellent performance and my friends were all very impressed! We felt it deserved a standing ovation not just polite applause!

Congratulations on another wonderful production. I have no idea what it was all about but I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Brilliant acting. Really superbly done

It was the performances and the lovely open setting rather than the play itself that made the show for me

Steve Alais was absolutely superb but you all acted your socks off even when not in the limelight

Just want to say how lovely it was to see the wonderful performances in No Man’s Land and how much I enjoyed the play

We really enjoyed the play. Thank you. It wasn't the one I thought! So, very interesting to hear a Pinter new to us. It worked really well we thought - funny, scary and touching in equal measure

What a difficult play not only to perform but also to direct – ‘challenging’ is the word that springs to mind

As usual with Lighted Fools the acting was faultless - so difficult

I didn’t have a clue what the play was all about.... came to the conclusion that it was a dream sequence as suggested in the blurb...... but my admiration for Lighted Fools has risen even more!

David Webb’s ability to be so still and so menacing was amazing

Props so good too.... attention to detail illustrated by the button hanging off Spooner’s jacket

It was terrific

How much we enjoyed the production. It was absolutely brilliant and the four actors were wonderful

I enjoyed all the performances on Thursday evening and perhaps one day I'll understand the play!

Pinter' s language is so precise and menacing and still has the power to shock. Several gasps around us!

The set and costumes were excellent.

What a triumph!

You should all be very proud of a brilliant production

Just wanted to say well done on a tricky play. Great cast and you all managed to find and balance the humour, the poetry and the despair in the piece. Congrats to everyone

We thought the acting and production were first class so many thanks again for a thought provoking and entertaining evening

Another great production

Can’t say I enjoyed it but I’m glad that I saw it!

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