Victoria Station (play)

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Victoria Station is a short play for two actors by the English playwright Harold Pinter.

Summary[edit]

Victoria Station consists of a radio dialogue between a minicab controller (or dispatcher) and a driver (#274) who is stopped by the side of "a dark park" in Crystal Palace, supposedly waiting further instructions. The stage directions Lights up on office. CONTROLLER sitting at microphone and Lights up on DRIVER in car (45) alternate between these settings.

The controller attempts to instruct the driver to pick up a client from Victoria Station, but the driver declines to move, focusing on his current client (who is apparently unmoving, perhaps even dead, in the back seat). The Controller's mood shifts through various degrees of mystification towards irritation and then possibly compassion masking some more nefarious intention of what to do with this Driver.

Lasting fewer than ten minutes, the play's tone is mostly comic, as the Controller becomes more and more frantic at the Driver's recalcitrance; however, as the play develops, the Controller's orders become increasingly ominous threats: "Drop your passenger. Drop your passenger at his chosen destination and proceed to Victoria Station. Otherwise I'll destroy you bone by bone. I'll suck you in and blow you out in little bubbles. I'll chew your stomach out with my own teeth. I'll eat all the hair off your body. You'll end up looking like a pipe cleaner? Get me?" (58). But Driver reveals that this client is a young female with whom he has "fallen in love" (possibly "for the first time") and from whom he refuses to part, imagining that he will even marry her and that they will "die together in this car", despite the previous admission that he is already married to a wife probably "asleep in bed" and the father of (perhaps) "a little daughter"—"Yes, I think that's what she is" (55).

The play becomes more somber in tone, as the Controller tries to assure the fearfully insecure Driver that all will be fine, finally cajoling him to "stay exactly where" he is, as the Controller prepares to leave "this miserable freezing fucking office"—obsessed in turn by the Driver and the fact that "nobody loves me"—in search of him, saying that he imagines them sharing a holiday together on Barbados (59). In response to the Driver's repeated plea, "Don't leave me" (53–54), the Controller may be prepared to "help" him (as he insists), but one may still wonder if he might actually retain some more menacing possibility (60–62).

Premiere[edit]

It was first performed at the National Theatre, London, on 14 October 1982. The performers were Paul Rogers as the Controller and Martin Jarvis as the Driver.

Publication[edit]

The sketch is published in Other Places: Three Plays, including also A Kind of Alaska and Family Voices (Grove Press, 1983), and also in Other Places: Four Plays by Harold Pinter (Dramatists Play Service, 1984).

Subsequent productions[edit]

Douglas Hodge directed Robert Glenister and Rufus Sewell in a 15-minute film version, released in 2003 by Alcove Entertainment.[1]

Victoria Station was among the short works included in a 2007 London production entitled Pinter's People, in which Bill Bailey played the minicab controller and Kevin Eldon played the cab driver.[2] According to Benedict Nightingale's mostly negative review of Pinter's People in the Times, Victoria Station (along with Night), was among the few sketches performed effectively.[3]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Victoria Station". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 30 June 2011. 
  2. ^ Martha Kearney,"Theatre: Pinter's People, Theatre Royal Haymarket", Newsnight Review, BBC Two, 2 Feb. 2007, Web, 18 June 2009. (Panel discussion featuring: Charles Saumarez Smith, Stephanie Merritt, Sarfraz Manzoor, and Michael Gove; moderated by Kearney.)
  3. ^ Benedict Nightingale, "Pinter's People", Times, News International, 3 Feb. 2007, Web, 18 June 2007:

    Last night I was sickened by some of the coarsest performances I have ever seen in a London playhouse. True, the Haymarket isn't the most intimate of theatres — but does that mean Sean Foley should let members of his cast go so abjectly into steamhammer and/or megaphone mode? … You can just about see Pinter's trademark preoccupations beneath language that's superficially as scattered and random as any you might overhear in a caff or on a bus: paranoia, the urge to dominate, loneliness, the need to fill silences with a sort of meaningful meaninglessness. But only in the second half does the cast calm down and let the audience listen, observe, ponder. With Bailey a justifiably (and credibly) frantic minicab controller and Kevin Eldon as the driver who denies any knowledge of one of London's great termini, Victoria Station comes off fine — and Night pretty well too.

Works cited[edit]

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