𝗣𝗗𝗙 | Several of Harold Pinter's works have been adapted as movie The Dumb Waiter in comparison with the German dubbed version, Der. Get this from a library! Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter.. [Mary F Brewer] -- This collection of essays focuses on one of Harold Pinter's most popular and. The book entitled Harold Pinter's 'The Dumb Waiter' is a collection of selected essays on Pinter's critically acclaimed play The Dumb Waiter.
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The Dumb Waiter: Realism and Metaphor. Radmila Nastiü. (Re)Thinking Harold Pinter's Comedy of Menace. Basil Chiasson. Feeding Power: Pinter. THE DUMB WAITER. By Harold Pinter. Page 2. Harold Pinter. ▫ born in in. East London. ▫ began his writing career in his teens. ▫ studied acting. The Dumb Waiter Script - Download as Word Doc .doc), PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or read online. A play by Harold Pinter.
Aston had rescued Davies from a fist-fight with a former co-worker, which the elderly Davies was losing. Although Davies is an unemployed and homeless man, he displays bravado and brags about his abilities and good character. Aston, who is busying himself with repairing some items in the apartment, all but ignores the talkative stranger. The kind Aston invites Davies to stay until he can sort himself out. Two things are holding Davies back from seeking employment—he needs new shoes so he can walk to Sidcup and retrieve his documents and references; and, he needs a break in the weather so he can make the trip. Unfortunately, Davies is never able to realize both these requirements at the same time.
I'll say that.. BEN turns the page. You know, sort of round the cup. Round the rim. All the rest of it's black, you see. Then the saucer's black, except for right in the middle, where the cup goes, where it's white.
Then the plates are the same, you see. Only they've got a black stripe--the plates--right across the middle. Yes, I'm quite taken with the crockery. BEN still reading. What do you want plates for? You're not going to eat. I've brought a few biscuits. Well, you'd better eat them quick. I always bring a few biscuits. Or a pie.
You know I can't drink tea without anything to eat. Well make the tea then, will you? Time's getting on. GUS brings out the flattened cigarette packet and examines it.
You got any cigarettes? I think I've run out. He throws the packet high up and leans forward to catch it. I hope it won't be a long job, this one.
Aiming carefully, he flips the packet under his bed. Oh, I wanted to ask you something. BEN slamming his paper down. What's that? A child of eight killed a cat! It's a fact. What about that, eh? A child of eight killing a cat! How did he do it? It was a girl. That's what I should say.
Peering at it. GUS rises. What first eleven? Any time. BEN reading. She-He picks up the paper and studies it. Does it? It's not much of a bed. I think you're right. It just says--Her brother. The first eleven. What's the matter with you? It could be any time. That's bloody ridiculous. GUS wanders to his bed and presses the mattress. A kid of eleven killing a cat and blaming it on his little sister of eight! It's enough to-He breaks off in disgust and seizes the paper.
A deficient what? Why not? Have you noticed the time that tank takes to fill? What time is he getting in touch? I was going to ask you something. Slamming down the paper. You seen this. In the lavatory. What tank? What do you think's the matter with it? He catches sight of a picture on the wall.
I bet he did it. I didn't have a very restful sleep today. That didn't occur to me. I could have done with another blanket too. What about that. There's a photo here of the first eleven.
It's got a deficient ballcock. Wait a minute. It doesn't say. How did she do it? The brother. What about that tea? It is.
I've got interests. Don't you ever get a bit fed up? When are you going to stop jabbering? I've got my model boats. GUS Studying the photo. What have I got? It's worse than the last one. GUS wanders downstage.
I like to have a bit of a view. Only a fortnight. Then when a call comes. You can't move out of the house in case a call comes. You get your holidays. It whiles away the time.
I say the crockery's good. I wouldn't mind if you had a window. GUS feels in the pocket of his jacket. At least there was a wireless there. You'd get rheumatism in a place like this. I've run out. You never get the chance in this job. But that's about all I can say for this place.
Anyone would think you're working every day. I like to get a look at the scenery. He doesn't seem to bother much about our comfort these days. How often do we do a job? Once a week?
What are you complaining about? I wouldn't like to live in this dump. The lavatory flushes off left. What do you want a window for? BEN lowering the paper. You know what your trouble is? We're not staying long. I've got my woodwork. I mean. Make the tea. I know how to occupy my time. GUS sits on his bed. He walks about the room.
I'm ready. There she goes. Look at me. You kill me. You haven't got any interests. They all look a bit old to me. Remember that last place we were in?
Last time. Have you ever seen me idle? I'm never idle. I don't know. We'll be on the job in a minute. I've been meaning to ask you. I've told you.
How do you know those sheets weren't clean? I told you things were going down the drain. Who took the call. I was too tired to notice when I got in this morning. We could go and watch the Villa. The second biggest city in Great Britain.
It could be my pong. Why did you stop the car this morning. I've noticed it. What about it? GUS excited. How do you know they weren't clean? You've spent the whole day in them. BEN referring to the paper. That's in the Midlands. We did. I don't really know what I pong like. I thought you were asleep. He examines it and looks up. I was. I don't want to share my bedsheets. We were too early.
I thought perhaps you wanted to kip. He looks with interest about the room. What was all that about then? Why did you stop?
BEN picking up the paper. So how could we be too early? BEN quietly. It was still dark. What town are we in? I've forgotten. We shoved out on the dot. I must have fallen asleep again. It's difficult to tell. GUS picks up a small bag by his bed and brings out a packet of tea.
In the middle of that road. What do you mean? We got the call. I looked out. He snaps his fingers. I thought these sheets didn't look too bright. It'll be Saturday tomorrow.
I thought they ponged a bit. He sits slowly on bed. You mean someone had to get out before we got in? He examines the bedclothes. You did stop. What the hell is it now? It was all misty.
Too early for what? I'd never have guessed. He sniffs sheets. He rises. I suppose. I wasn't waiting for anything. Things have tightened up.
But the Villa are playing away. The Villa don't play that sort of game. BEN turns on his bed to look at him. When's he going to get in touch? Then they might be playing here. We've never done a job in Tottenham. Then they said he was just acting. They got beat two0one.
They've tightened up. If they're playing away they might be playing here.. What must? Because you know who the other team was? It was the Spurs. I'd remember Tottenham. You were there yourself. I've always been an ardent football fan.
Didn't touch him! What are you talking about? He laid him out flat! Talk about drama. GUS chuckles to himself. They were playing away. BEN tonelessly. Don't you remember that disputed penalty? We've got to get straight back. What a pity. BEN turns back and reads. He went down just inside the area. GUS sees it. Who was it against now? White shirts. Not the Villa. Get out of it. It was Tottenham Hotspur. I saw the Villa get beat in a cup tie once.
Don't be silly. Who are? Their opponents won by a penalty. They're all playing away. The Villa. GUS yawns and speaks through his yawn. That must have been here. He stands. They're playing away. They might be playing the Villa. I didn't think the other bloke touched him myself.
Not me. I'd like to see another football match. The Spurs. Don't make me laugh. An envelope slides under the door. How do you know? I'll never forget it.
But the referee had the ball on the spot. It was one-all at half-time. For a bit of relaxation. Stayed over and watched a game. Is it sealed? Nothing on it. BEN examines it. What's in it? GUS empties twelve matches into his hand.
GUS stares at him. No One. Under the door. That's funny. Go on where? Is there anything on it? An envelope. What is it? He goes to the door. Open the door and see if you can catch anyone outside. BEN turns his head and sees the envelope. Pick it up. Open it. He replaces the revolver.
Where did it come from? Pick it up! GUS slowly moves towards it. Not a word. Must have done. Show it to me. GUS passes the envelope. What did you see? It came under the door? Open it! GUS opens it and looks inside. They stare at it. You don't even need a box. You do. BEN his eyes narrowing. They say put on the kettle. I'm just trying to point out something to you. I have never in all my life heard anyone say put on the kettle. Who says? They stare at each other.
I've never heard it. I mean the gas? Won't they? I'm only looking after your interests. All the time. GUS takes the matches from pocket and looks at them. They must have been pretty quick. I could do with them.
You could. Red too. Light the kettle! It's common usage! What does the gas--? BEN grabbing him with two hands by the throat. BEN menacing. About a dozen. I think you've got it wrong. I could do with them too. BEN taut. It's a figure of speech! Light what? Light the kettle. I'm not trying to be unreasonable.
Your mother? When did you last see your mother? Who's the senior partner here. The gas. Who does? GUS probes his ear with a match. I bet my mother used to say it. The kettle. Nobody sways light the gas! What does the gas light?. How many have you got there? What do you mean. How can you light the kettle? They stare. If I say go and light the kettle I mean go and light the kettle. You've got to learn. We haven't got any.
Go and light it. You mean the gas. Slapping his hand Don't waste them! Go on. BEN powerfully.
BEN wearily. GUS strikes a match on his shoe. GUS takes the hands from his throat. It lights. GUS goes to his bed and sits. The passage usually concerns a change of setting, but it can be a simple door opening, or ritual threshold crossing. Conversely, all moments of separation and birth produce anxiety.
The call to adventure may be refused, and the subject then loses the power of significant action, becoming a victim who needs to be saved Ibid. But his refusal to depart could also be interpreted as a kind of resistance, for the metaphor of threshold is always charged with multiple meanings. In The Dumb Waiter, however, Gus becomes awakened, and he dares to ask questions. His exit through the door is not a physical crossing of the threshold, but rather a mental awakening which, to all appearances, will lead to his death.
I wish here to make a case for a genre — Theater of the Threshold — that has a much longer history than is currently taken to be the case by most critics, including Naoko Yagi, few of whom have made connections between Pinter and pre-WWII drama. Yank awakens to his humanity after a shock encounter with Mildred, who views him as a strange animal, not a human. This awakening is a starting point for his search for identity, the beginning of his dream of belonging which will be finally defeated in the ZOO, where Yank has come to test his belonging to the world of nature and is crushed by a gorilla, and it becomes obvious that he belongs neither to nature nor to culture.
Crossing the first threshold leads the subject to regions of the unknown, which are but fields of the unconscious. As a matter of fact, instead of passing outwards, the subject goes inwards to be born again, which sometimes means physical death, as we can suppose will befall Gus as the outcome of his audacity.
In one sense, we might say that the death resulting from refusal to further participate in crime is another form of existence. With the story of Buddha, Campbell illustrates one possible form of initiation - 4 illumination that dispels delusions and results in Nirvana, a case that may be applied to Aston in The Caretaker, who identifies himself with the figure of Buddha.
Campbell Why bring this world into the plane of reality when it seems easier to be practical? The potential mental traveler in modern times is frequently incapable of implementing the attained awareness to dismal reality, choosing physical death instead, as most probably is the case with the heroes in The Birthday Party and The Dumb Waiter.
We may say that in the plays of Harold Pinter and the playwrights of his and younger generations, there are traces of dislocated myths, several times removed from the originals, and therefore subjected to subsequent rationalizations. They treat this small crime as business, but never carry it out. Bigsby comments that this is relevant to American political life in which the Mafia had appropriated the American iconography of the family, the brutalities of Vietnam were defended in terms of recognizable American virtues and in the language whose deep ironies were apparently lost in those who uttered them, and the American President deployed the language of statesman, team leader and patriot to justify his abrogation of the oath of office and his disregard for the law David Rabe wrote his play Hurlyburly in , and then in he wrote Those the River Keeps to explain the character of Phil, an ex-hitman, who kills himself in the former play.
In the preface to the latter play, Rabe writes how he found himself continuing to think about the characters after the production of Hurlyburly in Broadway. Each side has a cause for anxiety because each has the capability to engage in nuclear warfare.
Today: An air of fear and menace taints many human interactions and ways of thinking because of the "War on Terror," which pits western governments like the United States and Great Britain against several Middle Eastern governments and religious factions who believe themselves to be waging a holy war and who stage terrorist attacks around the world.
They seem to be cogs in a great machine rather than spontaneous individuals. Today: In the global economy, workers are treated like interchangeable parts of a great machine. Rather than becoming integral parts of a corporation which they serve and which offers them a secure, lifelong career, people experience uncertainty in their jobs and face the possibility of layoffs and corporate downsizing. Today: People are distracted from their anxieties and from independent and organized opposition, in Western Europe and the United States by public relations , entertainment, sports, advertising, and technological gadgetry.
The Theater of the Absurd Theater of the Absurd refers to a kind of play written during the s, s, and s, primarily in Europe, and especially in France. Camus, in The Myth of Sysiphus used the term "the absurd" to characterize a philosophy of existence that saw no meaning in the universe and made each individual responsible for the creation of meaning and purpose despite the emptiness of existence. The term "Theater of the Absurd" was invented by the theater critic Martin Esslin in when he wrote a book of that name exploring the work of these playwrights.
Vaudeville Pinter's dialogue is often reminiscent of the kind of routines that were perfected in vaudeville by teams of comedians, one being a straight man and the other bouncing off him to deliver the laugh lines. The routines usually worked due to the confusion that existed between the two because each had a different frame of reference from his partner when he spoke.
By the s, vaudeville in theaters was pretty much a thing of the past, replaced by movies and, especially, by television. But television, in the s, did not destroy vaudeville. It simply caused it to relocate, leaving the grand movie palaces and lodging on the small home screen.
The routines in The Dumb Waiter often are reminiscent of the kind of routines performed by the great vaudeville acts like George Burns and Gracie Allen or Jack Benny —a master of the frozen pause and silent, sidelong glance—and one of his several straightmen, or especially of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.
All these were popular television performers in the s. One of Abbott and Costello's most famous routines, "Who's on First," seems particularly relevant to The Dumb Waiter because of the rhythm of its banter and because of the way it highlights the frustrations of non-communication, especially when words become devoid of meaning. The audience knows nothing about them but what they say in the course of their conversations with each other, which is little indeed.
This scarcity of information has been the focus of much critical discussion. Buck, writing in the Explicator, cites Thomas F. Van Laan's observation that readers and critics often fill in "what [Pinter] has supposedly neglected to record. Indeed, it is, according to Van Laan, inevitable that readers help construct the events of the play, just because so much is omitted and much of what is included in The Dumb Waiter seems to be functioning to avoid rather than to reveal what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen.
Despite the room for filling in that exists in The Dumb Waiter, most critics actually do agree on the essentials of the play. After a straightforward summary of what occurs on the surface, Hollis suggests that it is possible to "allegorize The Dumb Waiter," to read the play symbolically. The very bareness of the play invites this; the play is, after all, an attempt to find meaning where meaning as it is generally experienced is absent. Hollis suggests that "the hierarchical power upstairs could be identified as a deity….
The little creatures scurry about on their terrestrial plane and try to guess what [he] wants. Rather than theological readings, most critics take a more down to earth tack. Hollis considers that what is represented in The Dumb Waiter is "man's suspicion that there is a power that is not so much malevolent as detached and unconcerned.
Hollis sees Gus and Ben as alternative possible responses to the mystery of such a dominant power: one submits and one rebels. Arnold P. Hinchliffe, writing in Harold Pinter, presents a more sociological reading, quoting the Yugoslavian critic Istvan Sinko: "When the functionary begins to reflect on the meaning of his job, he must die.
In this essay, he discusses the nature of the relationship between Ben and Gus. Ben ignores Gus's questions either by keeping silent, by giving evasive answers, or by refusing to understand what Gus is talking about.
But it is not only Gus's questions that Ben ignores. The action of The Dumb Waiter is fashioned to present the strategies that one man uses to ignore and discredit another completely. Readers and viewers may surmise that he is, in consequence, significantly ignoring and, in some way, dehumanizing himself, as well. The first moment of contact between Ben and Gus in the opening of The Dumb Waiter is immediately subverted before it can impress itself on them as an experience of contact. It becomes, rather, an instance of evasion.
Nothing is spoken. When The Dumb Waiter begins, Ben and Gus are together in a basement room with twin beds and two doorways. Ben is lying on one of the beds, reading the newspaper. Gus, unlike Ben, is fidgety. First, sitting on his bed, Gus ties his shoelaces "with difficulty. Ben has lowered his newspaper and watches him.
Gus shakes the match box and examines it. At that moment, "their eyes meet. Again Ben has lowered his paper and watches Gus until their eyes meet. As before, at that instant, Ben turns away; he "rattles his paper and reads. Alone Ben slams the paper down on the bed and "glares after him. It portrays the story of a long adulterous affair in reverse chronological order. As in The Dumb Waiter, Pinter works with themes of trust and betrayal in a situation where one character knows of another's disadvantage while the other does not.
Dutchman is a one-act play by Amiri Baraka , who was then writing under his birth name of LeRoi Jones. The play was made into a film in The play concerns the menacing and finally violent encounter between a young black man and a young white woman who are alone together in a subway car. As in The Dumb Waiter, the play is set in a confined space and the characters have no means of escape. As in The Dumb Waiter, the play uses a seemingly everyday situation and transforms it into a life and death confrontation.
Our Lady of the Flowers, by the French poet, novelist, homosexual, and thief, Jean Genet , was written in prison and first appeared in French in It was published in an English translation by Bernard Fretchman in It tells the story of a French drag queen and his pimp lover, who betrays him as an act of love. As Pinter does in The Dumb Waiter, Genet explores the ambiguity of a relationship between two men, one of whom seems to be dominant and the other submissive.
Genet's language, unlike Pinter's minimalism, is richly ornate. Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot was first performed in its original French in in Paris and in in London in an English translation made by Beckett himself. It concerns two tramps waiting, for some unspecified reason, in a kind of no man's land for someone, or something, named Godot.
It is a true precursor to The Dumb Waiter. When eyes meet, in general, something significant is happening between the two people whose eyes they are. Often such meeting signifies an understanding and a connection. As their eyes meet, so do the people.
Eyes meeting can also cause embarrassment. Then the revelation of something that such an encounter crystallizes is felt as undesirable. The connection is avoided and immediately repudiated. Something that is conveyed must not be conveyed, nor can it be acknowledged as known. There can be no connection between them. Their eyes turn away from each other; the moment of contact is denied. Ben and Gus momentarily share something they cannot share.
What it is, is unstated. That is the essence of the play; Ben and Gus share something they cannot share. The story The Dumb Waiter tells is the anatomy of the pattern of their relationship and not really the murky story of hired killers cooped in a room, tormented by unseen superiors through the mechanism of a dumbwaiter. That story is only a vehicle for this one. Consequently, the apparent "surprise ending" of The Dumb Waiter is not at all surprising.
It is not an O'Henry-twist of the plot but the inevitable conclusion or even essence of the plot, which is constituted by an exploration of Ben and Gus's paralyzed relationship with each other. There is something like contempt for Gus that Ben is showing, something like irritation, something like a feeling of superiority.
The murky surface that the play presents is the inevitable result of a continuous practice of or dedication to avoidance or evasion. With avoidance and evasion as the governing principles of speech and action, nothing can be known for sure. When nothing can be known for sure, the consequence for the human psyche must be anxiety and a sense of the absurd. If meaning is deliberately avoided, meaning, certainty and clarity become impossible. Everything seems, consequently, meaningless.
The Dumb Waiter is a drama of schematic relationship. It presents two varieties of response in a situation of powerlessness and uncertainty. Its focus is the interplay of those responses rather than a psychological study of character. It is not a play intended by its content to reflect or comment on the actual world in which the play is being performed or read. Because it is schematic, it does not need direct referents. Its drama is as if distilled from the tone of anxiety, menace, uncertainty, and alienation that characterized the s in Britain as well as the United States.
It is not necessary to construct equivalents between the text of the play and the actual world to see how the play reflects the spirit of its time. When Gus returns from the toilet, after the play's opening pantomime, Ben begins a series of maneuvers designed to avoid contact with him, designed, in a sense, to deny the existence of his presence even while coping with the fact that he is present.
Ben's actions constitute a series of feints designed to avoid and evade contact while appearing to make contact. The newspaper, which had been used in the pantomime as the means of turning his eyes away from Gus, now becomes the vehicle for spurious contact. When Gus returns, Ben begins a conversation with him regarding a story he has just seen in the paper.
Dramatically, Ben and Gus use the newspaper story to avoid talking about something while letting off steam. Theatrically, Ben and Gus are performing the first of many vaudeville-type routines. It is a comic dialogue. One performer gets the gag lines and one acts as a straight man, feeding him questions which allow the comic to build the routine. Throughout The Dumb Waiter Pinter uses and deepens this old music hall technique in order to show that there is some unstated conflict between the two that is expressed in falsely comic exchanges that make it appear they are in tune.
Gus looks interested in Ben's account and even his cries of "Go on! But in this skit and in the following ones, the content of their exchanges is less important than the tone of the conversations, the mood they create, and what is revealed about the personalities of the speakers by the power dynamics that shape the exchanges.
In this trivial instance, Ben is overwhelming Gus. After this bit of social cementing and reestablishing the order of authority, after they have, perhaps, made a connection with each other, Gus says, "I want to ask you something. It is the first of many times he will announce this desire. Many of their encounters start this way.
In this first one, Ben does not give Gus the time to ask. He answers, instead, with a question and a touch of irritation: "What are you doing out there? Ben expresses impatience that Gus has not yet made tea for them.
Gus says he is about to make the tea, but does not move. This device is repeated throughout the play. Its dramatic effect on viewers and readers is to contribute unobtrusively to the climate of anxiety that defines the play: making tea presents an ongoing unfinished situation. The unasked question and the undelivered answer even more forcefully represent the anxiety-provoking unfinished situation in the play.
Some twenty lines later, after Ben has sidetracked the conversation from Gus's question with the demand he make tea, and a discussion of the crockery in the kitchen, the interlude ends when Gus notes that he hopes the job won't be long.
Gus then remembers what he had begun earlier and says "Oh, I wanted to ask you something. Once again, Ben slams down the newspaper, apparently not in irritation, but in response to a disturbing story in the paper, and tells Gus about an eight-year-old girl who apparently killed a cat.
For a third time, after they toss the cat story back and forth and Gus again shows impatience, Gus tells Ben he wants to ask a question. This time Ben says, "What? Undoubtedly, this question is the prelude to another or a way to repress some other question. Viewers or readers may wonder: All that time just to ask a plumbing question? After some back and forth, Ben answers the question: "It's got a deficient ballcock, that's all," and this is apparently to Gus's satisfaction.
That is not, however, enough really to satisfy Gus. Immediately after accepting the answer, he begins to complain about not having slept well, about not having enough blankets. He stops abruptly when he notices the picture of a soccer team on the wall. The presence of the picture leads to quite a bit of conversation about soccer, soccer players, and whether Ben and Gus did or did not see a particular game in a particular city, all done in their usual argumentative mode.
Interlaced inside this conversation are Gus's complaints about how the work is getting more constricting and Ben's assortment of advice and reproaches. Most of the conversation throughout the play is trivial. In addition, nothing much really happens, at least not until the dumbwaiter starts acting up.
Even then, there really is little on the surface that would catch a viewer's or reader's attention. What keeps The Dumb Waiter going for a reader or viewer is the sense that something is going to happen. But, until the last moment of the play, nothing really does happen. Ben and Gus are waiting, killing time, and there is something continually suggested, continually approached, that is not being dealt with.
At the last minute, when Gus stumbles in and, as in the opening moment of the play, he "looks at Ben," both now keep their gazes fixed. Yet, whatever is going to happen, does not happen. The play ends as they stare at each other. It is reasonable to conclude, consequently, that just as the speech and action leading up to this moment are not important in the overall story line, so what happens the moment after the end of the play does not matter, either.
What is important is the closing scene that Pinter has imbued with the power to represent a fundamental expression of the human situation, which is the ambiguous relationship between people who are always on the verge of destroying one another or being destroyed.
Simon Trussler In the following excerpt, Trussler describes the personality traits particular to Ben as well as those that are particular to Gus.
The service-lift of this one-acter's title is a sort of machina ex deis, [a machine from God] which operates to and from a basement that was once—perhaps still is—the kitchen of a cafe. Here, Ben and Gus, the play's only characters, are awaiting instructions from the boss of some vague but evidently well-organised underworld gang. And so Pinter's storey-by-storey exploration finally descends from that upper-floor Room, by way of the ground-floor lounge of The Birthday Party, into the windowless and no doubt damp basement so feared by Rose Hudd.
Goldberg and McCann were reduced to homelier proportions in The Birthday Party when caught off the job, and thus off their guard—indeed, the very reference to the terrorising of Stanley Webber as "a job"  added its touch of reality.
Ben and Gus might almost be instruments of the same anonymous "organisation" as Goldberg and McCann—but, less bright and ready-tongued, and therefore a few rungs down the salary scale, they are only entrusted with the simpler tasks which don't need much initiative. Indeed, the pair don't even know why they've been sent to Birmingham, and don't waste time in surmise. The orders will come in good time. The play is thus the sum total of the desultory conversational ploys and pauses with which the pair while away the intervening hours, until the sudden, unnerving descent of the dumb waiter into their basement.
This makes a beautiful moment in the theatre, poised teetering between terror and bathos, disturbing, as it does, their disputes about whether Gus saw Aston Villa beaten in a cup-tie here years ago, or whether one should properly say "light the kettle" or "light the gas. At last, the pair having gone over their instructions one last time, the speaking-tube informs Ben that the night's victim is about to enter: he tries to call Gus, who has gone to the lavatory off left—but it is Gus himself who stumbles in from the right-hand entrance "stripped of his jacket, waistcoat, tie, holster and revolver … body stooping, his arms at his sides.
Without a doubt this is Pinter's least complicatedly comic play. Ben's credulous belief in what he reads in his newspaper, his occasional stabs at textbook phraseology, and, most hilarious of all, the pair's frantic theorising about the upstairs cafe, and their attempts to match the variety of its menu—all these ingredients keep the "menace" well below surface most of the time.
The play's opening is more assured, as if Pinter were more certain of his power to compel attention without an immediate plunge into dialogue, than in either of the earlier plays. Gus is simply tying up his shoelaces, while Ben, lying reading his paper, becomes increasingly engrossed in his colleague's activities as Gus removes one shoe after the other—to extract first a flattened matchbox, then a flattened cigarette-packet.
He shakes the packet and examines it, Pinter directs, and stamps off to the lavatory. Considerable attention is paid to the whereabouts of this lavatory, as it is also to the layout of the basement and its decoration—right down to an old cricketing photograph on the wall. Gus "wouldn't like to live in this dump. You never get the chance in this job. A place, and the purpose of its mysterious visitors: here is a re-statement of that dominant theme of each of Pinter's first three plays.
True, his touch is here of the lightest—and faults of over-explicitness, such as Ben's prolonged repetition of the speaking tube's complaints to the management, are few and far between. But behind the chatter about the quality of the china, beyond the search for substitutes for scampi, there is a vein of seriousness that touches and tempers The Dumb Waiter at several points. There are two dumb waiters in the play: the non-speaking service lift, and the bovine Gus, whose business, as Ben has to remind him, is also, unquestioningly, to wait.
Gus: What for? Gus: He might not come. He might just send a message. He doesn't always come. This verbal echo of Godot is no doubt a deliberate parody, and not to be taken too seriously. What becomes much more serious, for Gus, is his insistence on finding such niggling fault with the order of things as he finds them.
Somewhere there is a boss, who issues orders, which it is Gus's duty to carry out: that is all he knows in Birmingham, and all he needs to know.
Yet he remains dissatisfied—complaining about the bed and the basement itself, wondering who clears up after the job's been done, and, increasingly, bothered about the job itself. Ben doesn't: he even takes the injunctions of the dumb waiter in his stride. Not so his companion: What's he doing it for? We've been through our tests, haven't we? We got right through our tests, years ago, didn't we? We've proved ourselves before now, haven't we?
We've always done our job. What's he doing all this for? What's the idea? The methodology behind this speech is typical of Pinter.
The pervasive mystery becomes more mysterious by being reduced to commonplace terms of tests and qualifications, whilst the particular mystery is also heightened because Gus himself shares the mystification. And it is because Gus expresses his doubts so freely that he is being put to the test. He even dares to be inquisitive about who the evening's victim is going to be. The form of the dramatic irony is, as ever, a precise predicate to its content. Without the hindsight of a first acquaintance with the play Gus's imminent death at the fall of the curtain is pointless—indeed, it amounts to a vulgarisation of the whole action, a cheap device to twist the tail for the sake of twisting the tail.
Once again, it is only when one has got the message in its entirety that one can look at it properly line by line—and realise, for example, why Ben and Gus are so very different in character. It is always Gus who asks the probing questions, always Ben who by-passes them, or tells Gus, more or less vehemently, to shut up. Because of this, one gets the feeling that he "knows something"—that he has been entrusted with more information than Gus, precisely because he accepts it, as he accepts everything he is asked to do, without question.
Such an interpretation illuminates Ben's unnaturally quick reassurance of Gus when the dumb waiter first makes its appearance, as it does his roadside halt for no good reason while Gus was asleep on the way: so that whilst Ben doesn't know that Gus is to be his victim until the last moment, he knows that he knows more than Gus.
I wouldn't be so insistent about the difference between the two men, had not most critics talked of Ben and Gus as more or less interchangeable. They are not: if one really looks at what Gus does and says, one could not be at all sure that, if he found himself in Ben's situation as the curtain fell, he would really duly kill his comrade-in-arms. One is in no doubt at all that this is precisely what Ben means to do: and he must do it because, in Ben's position, Gus might have disobeyed his orders.
Each of Pinter's earliest plays becomes more terrifying the more one is aware that, if any action is inexorable, this is only because the element of free-will is there but is being ignored.
Petey could have stopped Goldberg and McCann from abducting Stanley. Gus could have taken his dissatisfaction one step further, and opted out: or, alternatively, he might have passed his last-chance test and, by accepting the dumb waiter and its orders as readily as Ben, thus have given himself over as completely as his companion to the "organisation. Certainly, the oracular nature of the dumb waiter's injunctions makes a religious interpretation tempting.
But The Dumb Waiter is much less explicit in this respect than The Birthday Party—not in its physical and personal details, which are as rich yet down-to-earth as ever, but in the greater opacity of its theme … Source: Simon Trussler, "Domestic Interiors," in The Plays of Harold Pinter, Victor Golancz, , 6 pp. Burkman, Katherine H. Hinchliffe, Arnold P.