Theatre: A Slight Ache, 2012 Toronto Fringe Festival
Past Reviews From 2012
Red Rabbit Theatre Productions presents Harold Pinter’s early masterpiece, A Slight Ache (1958), at the 2012 Toronto Fringe Festival. The play is typically Pinteresque: two people in a room are suddenly interrupted as a third person enters, thus intruding upon the habitual recurrence of their internal environment.
A Slight Ache can be classified as a Comedy of Menace, a pun on the Victorian-era Comedy of Manners, which is defined as a comic work that satirizes social interaction. The play employs comic elements in its criticism of the fundamental actions of Modern society, however there exists an air of violence that produces an effect of uncertainty. A Slight Ache opens with Edward (Jason Thompson) and Flora (Angela Froese) in their country house, a sphere familiar to them, however the presence of the Matchseller (Christopher Kelk) selling his wares outside of their back gate disrupts their comfortable solitude. Thus, the external world becomes menacing as it vaguely threatens to displace the conventional atmosphere of routine existence. It too becomes evident that Edward and Flora, though long married, are incapable of understanding one another. From their banal observations on the flowers blossoming in their garden emerges an ambiguity between words spoken and the portentous silences that follow, which create a depth of meaning and reveal an unsettling quality.
The Matchseller remains quiescent throughout the entire play, unable or unwilling to answer commonplace questions regarding his identity. This lack of action serves as a catalyst for Edward’s eventual breakdown; furthermore the Matchseller’s silence becomes one that bears both hostile and symbolic implications and is perceived as the intent to conceal meaning. In comparison, the tedious exchange between Edward and Flora was in itself meaningless yet potent, and Pinter suggests that such conversations are an act of evasion, an attempt to veil the emptiness within the self and society as a whole.
Under the direction of Mark Schoenberg, Pinter’s depiction of the crisis of Modernity and his visionary stylistic theatricality are accomplished with thoughtfulness and subtle ambiguity. In the darkened seats of Tarragon Main, I thought of how this playwright was not only able to perform the menial task of depicting daily experience as it occurs, but that he possessed the forethought to be capable of discerning the ethereal possibilities of the postmodern condition. With this sentiment, dear reader, I propose that, should you have the fortuity to attend a performance of any of Pinter’s works, you should immerse yourself in the deviant world of the uncanny.