The Caretaker

Written by Harold Pinter

Tues 21st January - Sat 23rd January & Tues 26th January - Sat 30th January 1999

Directed by Pete Woodward

An old man is invited back to a house occupied by two brothers and offered the job of caretaker. What happens then is alarming, funny and disturbing. Harold Pinter's 'The Caretaker' was first performed in 1960 and is regarded by many to be one of the most significant and influential plays written in the post-war years. Don't miss this opportunity to see this classic of British drama.

AuthorHarold Pinter

Harold Pinter CH. CBE (1930 - 2008)

Harold Pinter was perhaps the best known English playwright since the second world war; and was among the most influential British playwrights of modern time.

He was a child when war broke out and it made a strong and lasting impact on him; he found separation from his parents difficult when he was evacuated from London to Cornwall, and as a young man he was fined a substantial amount for refusing to do his national service.

At school he had read widely - both literature and poetry and particularly the works of Kafka and Hemingway - and acted in productions. He spent two years studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, but he never settled there and did not complete his course. He earned his living as an actor for some years before starting to write plays himself. His first play to be commercially successful was 'The Caretaker' in 1960 which, although critical reaction was mixed; Pinter's style was already distinctive, and not always popular with the critics. After becoming established as a writer, he went on to direct widely, serving under Peter Hall as associate director of the National Theatre. As well as the stage, Pinter has written extensively for British television and radio, and as a screenwriter of feature-films, and he has also directed for all of these media.

His plays often feature a sense of impending danger with the characters frequently under threat from people or forces they (and the audience) cannot understand or control. This menace and implied violence is more palatable to audiences because it is interleaved with often-unexpected humour. Although many of his plays are set in a single room or space, they often contain strong visual imagery.

His 1965 play 'The Homecoming' won a Tony Award, the Whitbread Anglo-American Theatre Award, and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award. These were followed by many others across all areas of his work, including the Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear, the Austrian State Prize for European Literature, BAFTA awards in 1965 and in 1971, the Hamburg Shakespeare Prize, the Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or in 1971, and the Commonwealth Award in 1981. He was awarded a CBE in 1966, but later turned down a knighthood. In 1996 he was given the Laurence Olivier Award for a lifetime's achievement in the theatre. In 2002 he was made a Companion of Honour for services to literature and in 2005 won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

PlayThe Caretaker

This play was first published and performed in 1960. The first production opened at the Arts Theatre in London, prior to transferring to the West End's Duchess Theatre, and starred Donald Pleasance, Alan Bates and Peter Woodthorpe. The productions received generally strong reviews. The sixth play that Pinter wrote, it was his first significant commercial success.

The action of the play takes place in the attic room of a house in west London and the plot is puzzling and sometimes disturbing. An old man (Davies) is invited to a house occupied by two brothers (Aston and Mick) and offered the job of caretaker. What follows can be described as comedy of menace as the three characters communicate with each other, or more accurately confuse and conceal from each other.

Now regarded as a classic of modern theatre, the script is widely studied in schools and it was made in to a film in 1964.

The Bench Production

The Caretaker poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


MickMark Wakeman
AstonDavid Penrose
DaviesAndy Rees


Director Pete Woodward
Stage Manager Stuart Monk
Music written and played by Sally Banerjee
Lighting Design Jacquie Penrose
Lighting and Sound Operation Alice Corrigan
Handbill Design Peter Woodward
Front of House Alan Welton

Director's Notes

Between 1960 and 1964 I was a student at Portsmouth Art College. In 1962, two years after The Caretaker was first staged, a drama group was formed and during my time there, three plays were produced; Sgt. Musgraves Dance, Dumb Waiter and The Caretaker. I was lucky enough to be involved with the first two, but the play that impressed me most was The Caretaker.

I think I understood what Davies, Mick and Aston were doing (that seemed straightforward) but what they were saying and thinking was always slippery and fascinating. That was what attracted me to the play then, and it still does now. I'm convinced that Pinter's plays are basically simple - it's just the people in them that are complicated.

The Caretaker has been thoroughly enjoyable to work on and I would particularly like to thank the cast; Andy, Mark and David for their work and commitment to the play. I hope you enjoy it.

Pete Woodward


The NewsMike Allen

Tramp steals the show, but where's the humour gone?

The thing to remember, in Harold Pinter's plays, is that they are about people rather than ideas. So the question to ask is not what his work means but what it tells us about humanity.

Bench Theatre's production of The Caretaker presents three characters sharply-drawn: a tramp taken off the streets and two brothers who give him a do-nothing job as caretaker in a run-down house. They communicate with him as he worms his way inexorably towards a position of control, and the brothers' lack of communication with each other conceals a fierce mutual loyalty.

The tramp and one brother, as played by Andrew Rees and Mark Wakeman, expertly exude menace - one through open truculence, the other through oblique smiles and brief explosiveness. But the performance to savour is David Penrose's as the brain-damaged Aston. His flat tones and shuffling walk sound and look simple but are searingly expressive of inner pain. He also catches the dryness of Pinter's humour with apparent effortlessness, but if Peter Woodward's thoughtful production has a weakness it is that it's generally not funny enough. The other two actors' timing and delivery of potentially comic lines needs to be a touch more pointed. Until January 30.

The News, 22nd January 1999

Production Photographs