When Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen team up to do a play, it’s time to pay attention and luckily we were among the many to catch their recent collaboration in No Man’s Land on its brilliant sell-out UK tour ahead of its upcoming arrival in London at the Wyndham’s Theatre. The Harold Pinter play is worth seeing all by itself, but with the two great actors in the main roles it made for an unmissable night of theatre.
Playing at the New Theatre in Cardiff, it was an impressive effort on the part of the production and the big name cast alike, opting to bring the show to cities throughout the UK instead of having one long stint in London. It lost nothing in the balance and delivered an incredible tour of acting force that is a rarity outside of the West End in the UK
Whether you’re a fan of their work together as Professor X and Magneto in the X-Men movies, or their more serious acting efforts, you won’t be disappointed in their efforts. They have a complete hold on the stage and the interplay of dialogue is pitch perfect, giving Harold Pinter’s words the acting might they deserve.
The play itself is a brilliant juxtaposition stream of unconsciousness that asks a lot of the audience and the writer alike. The simple setup belies the complexity of the work, which punctures the heart of memory, sex, fraternity, poetry and alcoholism without carrying out any specific post mortem. That’s not to say that it’s a shallow expose; merely that it surfaces piercing ideas that force the audience to fill in their own blanks.
There’s a lot of comedy to the play and the exchanges between Stewart and McKellen are nothing short of exceptional, and the two other supporting cast members – Owen Teale and Damian Maloney – do a lot to add to the edge of the night. Their appearance leads in to the serious and often dark underbelly to the situation that always drifts on the edge of vision, never taking shape for long enough for you to comprehend it in its full form, but always hovering between under-overt and over-diffused to remind you that in and among the swirl and chop there is a strong current.
Hopefully, we’ll get to see more collaborations between the two great actors, whether it’s on the Star Trek bridge, an X-Men movie or yet more perfectly pitched stage performances as in Sean Matias’ tightly metamorphic production of No Man’s Land. If we didn’t already love the actors enough before, we’re topped off with admiration for them having seen their immense skill up close.
No Man’s Land UK tour theatre review: 5/5