Friday, May 18, 2012

The Caretaker at BAM

photo: Shane Reid
If we forget chronology than the first line of Waiting For Godot, (l949) “Nothing to be done,” is proleptic in that it anticipates the question which constitutes one of the last lines of The Caretaker (1960), “What am I going to do?” Rain is hitting the skylight or dripping in to a pail from a leak in the roof or there is the Doppler effect as trains depart the current phenomenology themed production of Pinter’s play at BAM. There are also menacing sounding footsteps coming up to or descending the stairs from the disheveled room in which the action takes place. Actually that room as conceived by Christopher Morahan with set design by Eileen Diss is less an example of the absurdism with which Pinter is sometimes associated than pure naturalism. Architectural Digest could do a piece on the décor with its piles of tied up newspapers, its Buddha,which is eventually shattered, and its two cots. It’s also Empire of the Sun’s warehouse of plundered colonial antiques on a more personal scale. You are familiar with this room even though it’s supposed to be the end of the world. “The name I’m going under now is not my real name,” Davies, Pinter's prime mover, says at one point. “It’s assumed.” Nothing is authentic and that’s the point made by Jonathan Pryce in his arch and urgent interpretation of the role. Davies aka Jenkins is hired to be the caretaker. He only knows that caretaking requires implements. He is also hired to be an interior and exterior designer, but when confronted with the job description he pleads ignorance and then admits to being an imposter. Heidegger said that human beings live an inauthentic existence to the extent that they are not aware of death. Can we assume that this absence may explain the disarray? Is this the absence explains the faulty connections: the fact that there is no time in the room, that brown shoelaces are offered for black shoes, that the elder of two brothers Aston (Alan Cox), who inhabits the room, renders a whole soliloquy about a stay in a mental institution that's supposedly not listened to though it’s reiterated practically verbatim by Davies--a character who also groans in the night, but doesn’t dream, a character who is given somebody else’s piece of luggage when his is taken by accident?

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