Entertainment & Arts

Timothy Spall makes 'game' Caretaker stage return

The Caretaker Image copyright The Old Vic
Image caption Timothy Spall was last in a full-length stage production at the National Theatre

Actor Timothy Spall has made a "gamely" return to the London stage for the first time in two decades to star in Harold Pinter's The Caretaker.

The Mr Turner star opened in the 60s classic at the Old Vic on Wednesday in the part of the tramp Davies.

Spall was last in a full-length London play as Bottom in 1992's A Midsummer Night's Dream at the National Theatre.

In Pinter's play, Spall's ragged Davies is helped by a young man, only to have the brother threaten his new peace.

Critics were largely pleased to see the actor back on stage, whose career has for the last few years been on the big screen, notably playing Peter Pettigrew in Harry Potter.

They also had kind words for Spall's co-stars, Daniel Mays playing the kindly brother Aston and George MacKay as his scheming brother Mick.

Image copyright The Old Vic
Image caption Daniel Mays is the kindly but 'lost' Aston

And, though some felt the production was lacking in all but its three-hour length, most, like Dominic Cavendish of The Telegraph, had some words of encouragement for the star for his performance in the notoriously gruelling play.

Spall has "gamely come, at the age of 59, to give the Old Vic an instant touch of box-office magic", says Cavendish.

Below you can read more of his review and highlights from some other critics' assessments.

Dominic Cavendish - The Telegraph

Image copyright The Old Vic
Image caption George MacKay (right) is the play's force for evil as Mick

How does Spall fare? Well enough, I'd say, but while he looks the part with wild grey hair, heavy black overcoat and old pinstripe trousers, he's hobbled rather than helped by aspects of his interpretation...

Matthew Warchus's revival protracts the overall experience to three hours... at least a small part of this excess is attributable to the meal Spall makes of his lines. Almost every utterance is accompanied by a starter of eye-rolling and muttering...

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Patrick Marmion - The Daily Mail

It's a part that Spall, who is also known for Fungus the Bogeyman on Sky TV, slips into like a pair of cheesy old slippers. It allows him to give full vent to the grumpy, inscrutable and tender talents that make him one of our finest actors...

The play may have launched Pinter on a 50-year journey to the Nobel prize and some say it changed the course of British drama. But there's no question that it's dated.

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Michael Billington - The Guardian

Watching Spall, I was reminded that I was recently twice conned by a man at the door seeking money first for a sponsored walk and then for a substitute latch-key. Spall, like my visitor, shows how the truly desperate often combine rat-like cunning with the ability to refashion themselves in the moment...

But, while Spall is always fun to watch, I feel there is an edge of danger and aggression to Davies that here gets lost.

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Henry Hitchings - London Evening Standard

Although Davies is blunt and unkempt, he also resembles a music hall performer, a down-on-his-luck comedian who's perpetually searching for a new audience. Spall vividly expresses his clowning playfulness and the vulnerability it's meant to mask.

Yet it's rising star George MacKay who impresses most as Aston's malign brother Mick. He uses language as a weapon, and sometimes his whole body seems like a sharp, slim blade. His elaborately specific fantasies about interior design are winningly strange, and his stare is memorably pitiless.

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Natasha Tripney - The Stage

This is comic strip Pinter. It's a lovingly drawn comic strip, performed with punch, skill and conviction, but it's still a comic strip...

Mighty performances anchor a broad and slightly bloated production of Pinter's classic tragicomedy.

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The Caretaker is at the Old Vic until 14 May.

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