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by Anthony Neilson

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Tebut Isfar

ta ' Clare Azzopardi





Old Times

Author:   Harold Pinter

Director:   Chris Gatt

Cast:   Mikhail Basmadjian, Laura Best, Pia Zammit

Set Design:   Romualdo Moretti

Venue:   St James Cavalier

Dates:   7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 15, 19, 20, 21, 22 March 2015

Summary:   Anna is coming to visit Kate after an absence of 20 years.  However this visit creates ripples with Kate's husband Deely.  Deely and Anna compete for Kate's attention until a horrific ending closes the play.






What the Press said:


Duality which mirrors, warps and subverts

Unifaun explores the blurring between past and present, focusing on the power they wield over us

We all have to live with the consequences of our actions, and part of the human learning curve is to allow the past to teach us about ourselves and let our lessons shape our present and our future. Yet there are instances when our past not only comes back to haunt us, but also to rework itself in our present consciousness and blend with its current consequences to result in a new or different permutation and interpretation.

Time is in flux and our memories are not fixed but changeable. In this same manner, so are our personalities and our interactions. The concept of a multiverse allows us to understand that there are myriad consequences to our actions based on an infinite number of possibilities.

Harold Pinter, in his 1971 play Old Times, explores the idea that our past experiences, our ‘old times’ both separate and shared, can significantly complicate our present lives, and that the rhetoric which we use to cloak them in everyday language to normalise and rationalise them is ultimately only a veneer disguising our vulnerability.

Unifaun’s latest production of Old Times, currently running at St James Cavalier, delivers the whole Pinter package effectively and succinctly, making for an engaging and disturbing theatre piece which depends as much on its pauses and silences as it does on its dialogue.

Mikhail Basmadjian plays Deely, who with his wife Kate (Laura Best) wait for her old friend and roommate Anna (Pia Zammit) to show up for dinner. In between their commonplace remarks about dinner, the tension between Deely and Kate is revealed as he questions her about Anna and their relationship.

When Anna arrives she stirs up past memories which blend reminiscences with a collective consciousness shared by all three characters whose paths may or may not have crossed 20 years previously, when the friendless Kate got by with her only friend Anna, a gregarious and sociable woman whose opposing personality gave Kate the life she yearned for.

Deely’s encounters with them both are shrouded in mystery and ambiguity, presenting the audience with a conundrum as to how and why their lives entwined and how the subdued violent ending and quietly-tragic aftermath of their paths crossing leave the audience feeling lost and rather unfulfilled – reflecting the story they have just witnessed.

Basmadjian’s earnest and pressing Deely is after the truth – he wants to know while Best’s Kate is dismissive and indifferent – almost unwilling to involve herself with the past. Best was an excellent choice for the part – demure and reticent, with the innocent look of a woman who was once an ingénue and is now tired of reliving her previous experiences.

Her weary reluctance is mirrored in opposition in Zammit’s eager and willing Anna, who appears more welcoming than her host Kate. As the play develops, a near-sensual and dangerously-reciprocal intimacy begins to arise between the two women, which is later cut short by an abrupt declaration concerning Anna’s existence, throwing the audience’s previously-formed ideas into disarray.

Zammit gave Anna a clever twist on the femme fatale by making her more approachable, while Best’s supposedly-unassuming Kate is quietly unnerving. The concept of Kate ‘hosting’ Anna is twofold – on the one hand it can be taken literally, and on the other figuratively, in terms of opposing and overlapping personalities, making Deely appear to be a mere satellite to their two stronger forces.

With direction and lighting design by Chris Gatt and a timeless set designed by Romualdo Moretti and Joseph Galea, the staging helped focus the actors’ controlled emotional responses to one another, creating a tension which was taut and fraught with heavy silences in some places and elastic and vibrating precariously in others; making Old Times not so much about nostalgia as they are about self-reflexive neurosis.


-Andre Delicata, The Times of Malta, 11 March 2015





What (might have) happened in London

Old Times (Unifaun Theatre) Review – St James Cavalier

Unifaun Theatre kicked off their tenth anniversary celebrations in typical fashion presenting local audiences with a play that has been called unnerving, elusive, baffling, impenetrable.... but what else would expect from Adrian Buckle. The courageous producer has been responsible for challenging local audiences’ perception of “a night out at the theatre” with his daring choice of plays and must be commended for choosing to celebrate the theatre company’s anniversary with the local premiere of one of Harold Pinter’s most beguiling works.

It seems almost pointless to even attempt to eke out an interpretation of this dream-like production as you immediately get a sense that any interpretation would be flawed and inadequate. Throughout the performance one gets the feeling that Pinter is constantly playing games with you. As soon as he sees that you’re about to reach a conclusion he immediately changes the rules of the game to confound you and force you to look for a different angle to make sense of this stratagem.  The spectator cannot help but try to figure out possible meanings and make sense of the various conflicting memories recalled by the three characters around which the text revolves. Some would find Pinter’s games frustrating, I found it strangely compelling.

The production had the benefit of three very talented actors, Mikhail Basmadjian playing the film-maker Deeley, Laura Best playing his wife Kate and Pia Zammit playing Kate’s friend Ann who comes to visit the couple at their farmhouse on the coast. The text is made up of the trio’s recollection of what (or might not have) happened twenty years ago when the three of them lived in London. They are now all in their forties and their memories live in a realm that is distant both in terms of space and time. Some interpretations question whether there are in fact three separate, living characters inhabiting the text or whether Ann is simply a figment of the couple’s imagination. Director Chris Gatt does not attempt appear to have a specific bias to one interpretation or another and plays along to Pinter’s games allowing the audience to make and change their own minds  as the evening unfolds.

Much has been written about Pinter’s dramatic use of pauses and there are few scripts where silence is used more effectively as a weapon of control and manipulation than in this play. The talented cast play the subtle power games that ensue with great skill. Zammit and Basmadjian were both in typical fine form but I was particularly impressed by Laura Best’s performance on the night I watched the production. Her control of both voice and movement was impeccable throughout. Her gaze (a term that features prominently in the script) could tell a thousand tales with an economy of effort that perfectly mirrored the minimalist staging of the production. Her final recollection of the past that closes the play was spoken with a poetic quality that made every word she spoke hang in the air for the audience to savour.

Chris Gatt’s directs the trio with the lightest of touches and yet managed to bring out the essential elements of this fragile text to the surface. The only element I found lacking was the menacing comedy that lies deep within most of Pinter’s work. Gatt also brilliantly uses deft touches of light and sound to evoke the surreal atmosphere enveloping the action. This is further enhanced by Romualdo Moretti and Joseph Galea’s excellent set that feels like the setting is in itself a half-remembered figment of the characters’ imagination.  Happy anniversary Unifaun, here’s looking forward to the next ten years!

-Jes Camilleri, The Sunday Times of Malta, 15 March 2015



Image Gallery

photos by Christine Joan Muscat Azzopardi