Printable CopyNO MAN’S LAND
University of Adelaide Theatre Guild
The Little Theatre
Until 16 Aug 2014

Review by Anthony Vawser

When you know that you've witnessed something quite marvellous in the theatre, when you've been entertained, impressed and intrigued by the work of people who are clearly masters of their art, it turns out not to matter much to this reviewer that the meaning of the text seemed ultimately out of his grasp.

A meek, mild, modest man named Spooner, slightly dishevelled, rather talkative and touchingly over-eager to please, is enjoying a drink (the first of many) in the home of a very recent acquaintance named Hirst, a better-dressed, self-possessed individual. The evolution of this new relationship (or is it, in fact, an old one?) involves the two men utilising virtually all the intelligence, imagination, and vocabulary at their disposal, as they volley back and forth with questions, anecdotes and declarations, not to mention reminiscing about events that may never have actually happened.

Spooner seems to be attempting to assert his identity and make his impact felt within this household - but where will his efforts lead? What part do the mysterious, outlandish, intimidating interlopers named Foster and Briggs have to play in the proceedings? What do they (and/or we) all have to fear from that which gives this play its title?

Whether you personally feel able or unable to interpret it, “No Man's Land” is a treat, thanks largely to a brilliant acting ensemble, but also to Warwick Cooper's crisp and fast-moving direction of the legendary Harold Pinter's often challenging but just-as-frequently-funny script. With nary a line wasted, and dialogue that sparkles with surrealistic ideas and tantalising possibilities, not to mention word-play and imagery that ranges from delightful to grotesque, it's a unique world that these men collectively conjure up, one that you really should pay a visit to.

Michael Baldwin, playing Spooner, is so consistently engaging, intriguing, and sympathetic, one expects him to steal the show right out from under the noses of his fellow actors. Happily, John Edge (Hirst), Matt Houston (Foster), and Jonathan Pheasant (Briggs) all get as much of a chance as each other to showcase their remarkable talents. With razor-sharp timing and boundless energy, all four performances are superbly expressive without ever feeling excessive.

The handsomely detailed set (including a number of impressively painted portraits), professional-standard costume design, and spot-on technical aspects are the icing on a most unusual but thoroughly delicious cake. Be sure to grab a slice while you can!