The Caretaker begins with an altruistic act: Aston invites Davies into his room, after rescuing him in a fight. Davies describes the fight: he was in the right, and gave a reasonable account of himself- these are pitiful attempts to deceive. Davies is a tramp. Such generosity is not rewarded.
There are three men in the play: Aston’s brother Mick owns the building, whose rooms are otherwise uninhabitable. A bucket hanging from the roof catches drips; the room is clogged with rubbish such as a disconnected gas cooker, a metal sink and draining board, and a television. The man behind me refers to Davies as a “Street person”- no, he is a “homeless person” because the play is British- indeed, a tramp because it is from the 1960s.
At separate times Davies confronts Aston, or Mick. It seemed to me the tension could be increased or decreased by the director at will: have the men closer, or further apart; have them observe all the pauses in the stage directions, or speak more slowly. I would have the set much smaller than the Old Vic stage, as the room would be smaller than that; outside the room I would have darkness.
Davies tells stories of his life. He went to a monastery in Luton because they were handing out shoes, but the monk told him to piss off. “Piss off”, he said. Davies spoke back, no-one would talk to him like that. He will go to Sidcup to get references, but he never does. Aston wants to build a shed. Mick wants the remaining rooms on the upper floor decorated, and has precise ideas how; that won’t happen either, though Mick seems the most effectual character, prowling the stage with threatening grace.
Aston had electro-convulsive therapy which damaged his brain. Davies uses this against him: “They’ll come for you, with those pincers”.
We sat, waiting for the play to start, watching heavy rain fall on a steep roof in the dark. It is cheerless. The characters can’t plan, can’t foresee consequences, can’t communicate, but “no-one actually starves”.
R wanted to go, as he had done it for A-level, forty years ago. He forgot the tickets, and I had to go back for them; we needed a taxi to cross London, we were too late to get the bus; he had bought full price tickets, and needed to change them for disabled persons’ tickets; the box office woman was charming, he wanted to prove he was disabled with his disabled person’s railcard, but she did not need that. She was charming, and a cold hard coming we had of it. I offered him an arm for the few steps; led him off in the wrong direction to get the bus home; he was perturbed by people pushing past to get to their seats, touching the back of his head, but bore it. It seemed more a task to achieve than an entertainment to enjoy.