Jacob Richmond is directing Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre’s production of The Caretaker by Harold Pinter, Blue Bridge’s first play in their People’s Choice season. We caught up with him right before the play’s opening night.
What kind of world is the audience entering when they step into The Caretaker?
There is a sense of unsettling danger in everything and that really comes through in the silences between the dialogue. There is danger in people, in governments. Pinter is exploring the kind of human beings who have fallen through the cracks. There may be mental illness in this family but there is no help for them. It shows the barbarism of the mental health system in that era.
What has stood out for you the most with this show?
There is a specific style to Pinter’s plays in that the dialogue fills the spaces where the real conversation is happening. It’s called the Pinter Pause. There is a lot of mystery and you have to unravel the pieces and the clues aren’t limited to the words. It’s one of the reasons actors love playing the characters, because there is so much subtle acting required.
How is it directing a play at the Roxy again?
This is the type of play that works well in the Roxy because the audience feels like they are in the living room with the characters and there is so much happening with the silences. It’s a play that works with a smaller audience to truly get the effect. Because the audience is up close they feel the earthy dirtiness of everything in the story.
You have just come back from New York City and a successful run there. What was that experience like?
Theatre is a universal craft. I have always said I notice acting – good acting is good acting wherever you are. In New York you can see a new play every night. There are professional theatre goers and they are a tough crowd. They are harder to win over. That demands a high calibre of production which I think we should always strive for.
Are you doing anything different with this show?
The play itself is already abstract and conceptual. I decided the best way to go is to serve Pinter’s vision and present the play as he intended. Any filter I put it through wouldn’t serve the audience.
Any surprises as you worked through putting the show together?
I forgot how much is happening off the words. There is a huge difference between when this play is read and then when it’s acted. You can’t get the play by reading it – it has to be performed. A lot happens in the Pinter pause.
This play asks a lot of the actors. It is very hard to memorize. Pinter plays with the confusions in the pauses and actors have to be on their toes with this piece. They have to know it like a piece of music and they have to fill the pauses with acting. It is very much like a piece of jazz. It’s a lot about the tempo. The nonsense is about the characters not wanting to talk about what they are thinking about. There is active introspection in the pauses and that asks a lot of the actors.
What will audiences take away after the show?
I think people should see at least one Pinter play in their lives. You can’t get the full measure from reading the play. It’s beautiful and tense throughout. He plays with the audience tension as much as the actors. You have to be in the audience with other audience members to really experience that.
Different audience members will come away with totally different interpretations. Each person will respond differently to the clues Pinter gives through the play. It’s one of the reasons this piece is performed so often.