Today: May 15, 2024

Stumped

Rating: 5/5.
Bottom line: Pitch perfect.

Format: via Original Online streaming service.
Run time. 1h 10 minutes.
Cast: Stephen Tompkinson and Andrew Lancel.

One of the pluses of Lockdown was the outpouring of love for the arts, with hungry audiences rushing to fledgling streaming services to get their fix of the theatre experience. 

Thankfully those streaming services have now developed into arts hubs offering a huge choice of films, plays, musicals, and one-man shows.

Original Theatre have been touring extensively over the UK (and as far as the US) since 2004. In 2020 they launched Original Online, becoming one of the leading digital theatre producers in the UK—and winning a Critics’ Circle Theatre Award for their theatre-making during COVID.

Stumped is their latest release–and what a joy it is.

Before Samuel Beckett became the playwright universally known for Waiting For Godot, he was a cricketer. He is still the only Nobel prize-winner to feature in the pages of Wisden. His friend, the actor, playwright, and screenwriter, was Harold Pinter, who once described cricket as “the greatest thing that God created on Earth.”

Shomit Dutta’s, Stumped places Beckett and Harold Pinter in a cricket-themed dreamscape, fashioned by their own dramatic techniques. Act 1, is all Beckett, whimsey, and absurdity, while Act 2 takes Pinter’s obsessions with unknown menace and runs with it.

The result is both funny and unnerving. Dutta’s dialogue—and pauses—are pitch perfect. Stephen Tompkinson (Wild At Heart) and Andrew Lancel (Coronation Street) are wonderful as Beckett and Pinter respectively. Lancel’s Pinter, carries an anxty edge which adds an extra dimension to his seemingly calm, studied persona. But it’s Tompkinson who steals the show with a performance that charms, blending Beckett’s studied acerbity, with his casual genius.

While some familiarity with the work of Beckett and Pinter is useful, it’s not a prerequisite. This is a play for theatre fans, a play for fans of Beckett and Pinter and— yes—it’s a play for fans of cricket. But most of all it’s a play for those who love the sort of small, indie, touring companies who bring so much fun and joy to those of us not fortunate enough to have the West End on our door step.

Stumped enjoys a strictly limited run until Sat 22nd July at Hampstead Theatre and is available to stream exclusively through Original Online. Visit www.originaltheatre.com for more information.

Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Paula Hammond is a full-time, freelance journalist. She regularly writes for more magazines than is healthy and has over 25 books to her credit. When not frantically scribbling, she can be found indulging her passions for film, theatre, cult TV, sci-fi and real ale. If you should spot her in the pub, after five rounds rapid, she’ll be the one in the corner mumbling Ghostbusters quotes and waiting for the transporter to lock on to her signal… Email: writerpaula@icloud.com

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