The Dumb Waiter

Hello, Internetland! Who is the dumb waiter? For any of you who have read Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot this is a familiar concept to you.

I read The Dumb Waiter by Harold Pinter last week for my theatre class. At first I was really confused when I read it. Why? Well let me tell you: This play isn’t as confusing as some of Pinter’s other plays. For example we actually know the profession of the two characters. They are hit men and they are waiting for their next job to arrive. Usually in Pinter’s plays you are left guessing what the profession of the characters are. Example would be in The Room and in The Birthday Party you think the characters may have shady professions but it’s never actually confirmed.

Anyway, so these two guys, Ben and Gus are waiting for their boss to get in touch with them so they can do their next job. While they wait they have simple conversation about the news paper. Ben is disgusted with a girl who killed a cat. Ironic, no? I mean this guy shoots people for a living and he’s judging a little girl for killing a kitty? He probably killed kitties when he was a snot-nosed little sadist– I mean, child…

So these two guys are waiting, waiting, waiting for something to happen. Similar to Waiting for Godot where there are also two guys waiting for someone. Ben and Gus have a little argument about whether you light the gas, light the kettle or put the kettle on. It’s a dumb argument but it symbolizes a struggle for power.

Suddenly, a bunch of weird things occur. Someone pushes matches under the door. Ben and Gus have never had someone interact like that with them during a job before. Then the dumbwaiter in the centre of the room starts to send down food orders from above.

The food orders are simple at first but keep getting more and more difficult to do. Obviously, these guys don’t have a lot of food but they send up what they have.

Gus starts talking about their last job as well, which Ben really doesn’t want to talk about. their last hit was a girl. this has disturbed Gus and he has started questioning the organization that he works for. Gus also mentions how Ben stopped the car while they were driving to their new location. Ben could have stopped the car because he too was disturbed by killing a woman or maybe Gus asked one too many questions and the organization has decided to get rid of him.

I think that the food orders are a test for both of them. If they can do the job with out asking questions they pass. Gus, however, gets frustrated and starts asking questions.

The end of the play is a super neat twist and I don’t want to give it away so you should read it! So far I think this is my favourite Pinter play.

Next on the reading list is: the Maestro by Tim Wynn Jones

The Room

Harold Pinter. The creator of the Pinter Pause. One of theatres most famous playwrights from the 1960s. I just read one of his plays for my Theatre 381 class and I am thoroughly confused. Ah, Pinter never fails to confuse. His plays are like onions. You have to peel away the layers to find the true meaning of the text. On the outside the play is a little boring as it’s just talk. But once you get down to the lower layers you get to the real meaning of the play. Actually I think a better comparison would be like chocolate cake. The top layer is the frosting. Nice to look at, sweet, some sprinkles maybe if you’re feeling adventurous. Then the deeper layers. They are full of all the decadent chocolate goo that you want and crave.

The Room by Harold Pinter is the play I just read. The play’s setting is in a room (shocker!) in what I think is a boarding house. Rose and Bert are on stage. Bert is reading a magazine and Rose is trying to make conversation with him. The first four and half pages are of her talking to Bert and him not responding. There are a lot of pauses. Pauses are very important in Pinter plays because they allow the audience to  think of the conversation not being said. Ever had an awkward silence where no one is willing to point out the elephant in the room? That is a Pinter Pause

I think Rose is lonely. She wants to make conversation with her husband but he is not responding to her. She makes statements that he could respond to but he doesn’t so she responds for it. For example she is asking him if he is going out and when he doesn’t answer she says that he won’t be long. Rose’s excessive talking could be her way of trying to make herself feel a little more powerful even if it’s not working. Bert holds the power in the scene because of his non-responses.

The landlord comes in for a while and Rose and him chat for a while although it is like they are actually holding conversations with themselves while the others are in the room. They respond to themselves in a way… hard to explain. Rose could be talking about something, then the landlord, Mr. Kidd, will respond with something else and Rose will keep going on with her subject and then Mr. Kidd will go on with his subject… Not very productive. Breaks the maxims of conversation.

Mr. Kidd leaves, and then once Bert leaves the scene (never says where he’s going) two more enter the scene. They are a young couple looking for the landlord so they could rent a room. They mention there is a man living in the basement room. Rose has an obssession with the basement room and she’s proud of herself that they don’t live there. She wants to know who does live there. I’m not sure why she wants to know so bad. Maybe she’s just nosey. Who knows?

The young couple have some marital issues. They bicker about everything. The man doesn’t want to sit, then when he “perches” on the corner of the table the woman makes a stink about him sitting and he says he never and yatta yatta. I’m sure they have some importance to the play but we need to peel away the layers to figure it out.

Rose eventually meets the man in the basement. His name is Riley and he says he knows her but we don’t know how he knows her except that he’s asking her to come home and that Rose’s father wants her home. He calls her Sal. Maybe she ran away from home or something but that would be too cliché for Pinter. There’s always something a little more sinister going on with this man’s plays. Maybe Rose is a prostitute…. could be.

Anyways, once I get the chance to discuss this in my class I will do another post with the real explanations of this play. It’s hard to understand at first but after getting to talk about it it usually makes sense.

You should try reading the play, Internetland, and see if it makes any sense to you.