Harold Pinter: The Caretaker (1960)

60 De huisbewaarderIn 1966 werd “De huisbewaarder” van Harold Pinter opgevoerd in het Arcatheater met (op de foto v.l.n.r.) Marc van Nieuwenhuize, Hugo van den Berghe en Cyriel van Gent. In de Germaanse heb ik het stuk gelezen als verplichte lectuur en daarom heb ik toen een samenvatting gemaakt in het Engels. Niet zo heel erg goed Engels, moet ik toegeven, maar ik heb mijn best gedaan.

ACT ONE, a night in winter
The play opens with Mick, a man in his late twenties, sitting in a disorderly room. He leaves when Aston (early thirties) comes in with an old man he saved from a fight. There is something mysterious about this old man: he’s called Mac Davies but is known under the name of Bernard Jenkins (he says he has left his passport somewhere). He is very poor (no food, no money, no shoes, no place to stay), he “doesn’t remember” where he was born and he has a hatred against aliens, especially black people. Aston tells him he can stay until he gets himself fixed up. About Aston we are not informed very well either: he says that he’s a carpenter and in charge of the house and there may be sexual frustrations present in him (his story about the woman in the pub). The following morning Aston leaves Davies alone in the house. The latter is surprised rather violently by Mick, while he was looking around in all corners.
ACT TWO, a few seconds later
First part
Mick asks several times for Davies’ name and tells two stories about men who resembled Davies. In the end he asks him if he will rent the house. Aston re-enters with a bag. There’s nearly a fight for it between Mick and Davies. Aston takes the side of Davies, because his bag is stolen, but it appears that this isn’t his bag. Mick leaves. Aston asks Davies to be the caretaker. Davies refuses, because he doesn’t know what the job implies. When it turns out that one of his tasks will be to show visitors around, he is scared to be caught by the police for wearing a false name or by the bloke who hit him.
Second part
Mick scares Davies in the dark. Davies grasps a knife but then they are at peace. Mick tells him that his brother (who turns out to be Aston) is lazy. He would like to have Davies as the caretaker of Aston’s flat, which is owned by Mick, as he’s in the trade-business. Davies agrees.
Third part
The relationship between Davies and Astor is deteriorating (e.g. the discussion about the window). Davies still hasn’t went to Sidcup to fetch his papers. Monologue of Aston, in which we are taught that he has been in a hospital for his brains. He has been very ill (he went nearly mad, it was impossible for him to think, he had headaches), but now he’s on the better hand.
ACT THREE, a fortnight later
Illustration of “the communication breakdown”.
First part
Davies complains to Mick about Aston (he’s waking him up during the night because he’s making noises). Mick tells him that he has to speak to Aston about the arranging of the flat. Davies says it’s impossible for him to have a conversation with Aston. Mick will have to do it. He agrees but leaves anyway when Aston enters. Aston leaves while Davies is talking to him…
Second part
In the middle of the night Davies and Aston are nearly fighting, because Davies, after being – once again – woken up, threatens Aston to put him back in the hospital. In the end Aston tells him to leave, but Davies answers that he’ll be the caretaker here and that Aston should leave.
Third part
Mick is angry with Davies because he understood that Davies was an interior decorator. In his anger he hurls Aston’s Buddha statue against the gas stove. When Aston comes in Mick gives as explanation: “Look… uh…” and leaves. Davies must leave now, even if he promises to help Aston with the building of his shed and to fetch his papers at Sidcup (two undeveloped themes throughout the whole play).
Characteristics
Strong influence of Beckett.
Brilliant, precise dialogue.
Subtle characterization.

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