Following on from such successes as ‘The Red’ and ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’, Original Theatre returns with their next online offering; Shomit Dutta’s ‘Stumped’.
This interesting piece tells the story of two great playwrights, Samuel Beckett (played here by Stephen Tompkinson) and Harold Pinter (played by Andrew Lancel). The two were great friends and they shared a love for cricket, something that Pinter described as ‘the greatest thing that God created on Earth’, with this 2-act production following the two friends as they both take part in a game and talk the experience over afterwards.
Both Tompkinson’s Beckett and Lancel’s Pinter are big characters, Beckett fussing over making sure that he fulfils his cricket score keeping responsibilities whilst Pinter fusses over his padding and looking into the lives of the other players. In this look into what the friendship could have looked like, the pair often bicker, discussing their plays as they watch the game and arguing over the ins and outs of who scored what and such.
For someone with very little understanding of the game of Cricket, I did sometimes find myself getting a little bit lost and some of the jokes perhaps didn’t find their audience in myself, but I can appreciate what is being done here. The play, just a two hander, is wordy and complicated in places, especially in the second act with moments begin to border on the absurd as the two recover from the game and recount the moments, trying to work out who took them out and whether that is the same person who is meant to be coming to pick them up. The discussion between the two becomes more rapid, blurring the lines between what is actually happening to them and one of their plans with confusion over phone calls and a missing coat. Many other characters are introduced but because we never actually meet them, it’s hard in places to attach any meaning to these other people and how they impact Pinter and Beckett.
Tompkinson and Lancel work well to keep the story moving in the running time of just under an hour, forming a believable friendship between the two with some brighter moments mixed with darker scenes of confusion and some anxiety. The performers are captivating, but I can’t help but feel that a little bit more action and set could have lifted it, given them more to work with in this lengthy conversation broken up into two scenes.
Performed and recorded at Lord’s, ‘Stumped’ is a love letter to cricket for the most part, using these two great playwrights to share the love for the game and discuss the role that it plays in their lives. They are brought together by the game, allowing the audience to see the friendship between them and the bond that they have, even in the darker moments.
Speaking of darker moments, through the computer screen, act 2 did feel a little bit too dark in regard to the lighting. I understand that it was a night-time setting, but it did feel as if most of the scene was in shadow, with the brightest light coming from the cricket pavilion set piece.
Overall, ‘Stumped’ is a look into the friendship of two great writers, seen through their love for cricket. It’s two actors at their peak, filling in the gaps in the action with conversation. It’s a wordy piece, and if you do struggle to understand the scoring and/or rules of the sport, it could be a little confusing. The sentimental idea is there in the friendship, but I feel that a little bit more action is needed to lift the piece and explain some moments instead of the audience being left to imagine for themselves what happened in the game and why they found themselves on the village green at night waiting for a lift.
Tickets to watched 'Stumped' can be purchased here https://originaltheatreonline.com/productions/46/stumped-on-demand with the show available on demand from September 27