The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings


SEARCH CurtainUp



NEWS (Etcetera)



Los Angeles






Free Updates
NYC Weather
A CurtainUp LondonLondon Review
The Dwarfs
by Lizzie Loveridge

The rooms we live in open and shut. They change shape at their own will.
-- Len
The Dwarfs is Harold Pinter's first and only novel, written long before his first play between 1952 and 1956. His first play was a year later in 1957, The Room. In 1960 after several of his plays had been produced, he returned to The Dwarfs adapting it as a radio play broadcast by the BBC. This short play (no pun intended) was premiered at the Arts Theatre Club in 1963 as a part of a double bill with The Lover. John Hurt played Len. But the 1963 version of The Dwarfs had only three male actors. The female role has been added for this play but we are told Pinter approves.

In 2002 director Christopher Morahan and the author Kerry Lee Crabbe asked Pinter for permission to work on the novel of The Dwarfs, which Pinter had revised in 1989, in order to adapt it for the stage. So after developing it at the National Theatre Studio and filming it for the BBC4 TV Pinter special, this version of The Dwarfs has its world premiere at the Tricycle Kilburn.

Is this a Pinter play? No, not at all. What does it lack? The ambiguity, the economy and precision of Pinter's words, the menace of his characters and those passages of imagination and incongruity when a character goes off at an angle. What we have instead is a play about three men who, like Pinter, went to school together in Hackney. Each one of them bears some resemblance to Pinter. Len Weinstein (Mark Rice-Oxley) writes. Len is the mathematician, the geeky one, who plays the recorder, knows the bus timetables off by heart and whose writing contains references to the imaginary dwarfs of the title. Pete (Jamie Lee) is of Portuguese descent, as is Harold Pinter, but Pete works in one of the East End's traditional industries, clothing. Mark (Ben Caplan) like Pinter is an actor. The new character is Pete's girlfriend, Virginia (Daisy Haggard) the teacher, maybe based on Pinter's first wife Vivien Merchant whom he married in 1956.

The Dwarfs tracks the friendship between the three boys. Pete's relationship with Virginia is past its first burst of passion and into a stage where Pete abuses Virginia. Virginia eventually leaves Pete and takes up with Mark which causes the two men to re-examine what they mean by friendship. It is an early examination of betrayal, the theme of many of Pinter's plays.

One of the problems is the twenty nine scene changes, Pete's flat, Virginia's flat, Victoria Park, Len's home, walking by the River Lea. The designer has done well with a sliding screen to ring the changes but overall one has a lasting impression of too much scene changing, too many chairs and tables and fireplaces moving into position. It must have looked better on the television film in real locations in Hackney.

While the performances are perfectly satisfactory, The Dwarfs did not engage me. The characters did not interest me and I didn't care what happened to them. The programme however has much fascinating biographical detail of Pinter's early life and his friends from their school. Somehow it is more evocative on the written page than this dramatisation. I'm so pleased Pinter gave up novel writing and moved on to plays and screenplays. LINKS to Curtain Up's overview of Harold Pinter's career

Harold Pinter

The Dwarfs
Written by Kerry Lee Crabbe
Directed by Christopher Morahan

With: Jamie Lee, Mark Rice-Oxley, Ben Caplan, Daisy Haggard
Set Designer: Eileen Diss
Costume Designer: Dany Everett
Lighting Designer: Mick Hughes
Sound: John Leonard (for Aura)
Running time: Two hours 25 minutes with one interval .
Box Office: 020 7328 1000
Booking to 31st May 2003
Supported by Bloomberg as a part of their New Writing for New Audiences at the Tricycle
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 23rd April 2003 Performance at the Tricycle 269 Kilburn High Road London NW6 (Tube Station: Kilburn)

Mendes at the Donmar
Our Review

Peter Ackroyd's  History of London: The Biography
Peter Ackroyd's History of London: The Biography

London Sketchbook
London Sketchbook

Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers

At This Theater Cover
At This Theater

Ridiculous! The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam

The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century

metaphors dictionary cover
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.

The Broadway Theatre Archive


Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from