One for the Road


TORTURE is not a pretty subject, and Harold Pinter's One for the Road (in a production by Tin Drum at the City Arts) is not a pretty play. But it gets to the heart and horror of its theme in a way that the documentary or printed word cannot, engaging the imagination and subliminal fears of its audience.

The setting is a prison for subversives in some unnamed dictatorship; by avoiding specifics of place and people, the play's focus on its characters and their situations widens to embrace a range of possible scenarios. Victor, the chiet interrogator, interviews a man, his wife and even his nine year old son. His role is to apply the finishing touches, to ensure that this man will not again inconvenience his masters.

As the man is brought to him, broken in body and near the limit of his spirit, Victor engages him in pseudo polite conversation. How are you, he asks solicitously, how is your wife, your son? His urbane talk is spiked with occasional and startling obscenities and he helps himself to several whiskeys as he plants even deeper fear and despair in the mind of his captive.

His separate interviews with the wife and, briefly, with the son are much more brutal affairs; they are incidental to his purpose, which he achieves with refined sadism. Victor has most of the dialogue here; the others are too afraid and brutalised to speak except when commanded. But the roles are finely written, and all require discipline and timing. Ken Harmon, Ronan Grealy and Susan Church deliver them with disturbing intensity.

Julian Hills directs the hour long piece with the right pace and atmosphere, against a good set design by Brendan McDonnell.