When in 1964 Samuel Beckett (Stephen Tompkinson) and Harold Pinter (Andrew Lancel) play in the same cricket match in the Cotswolds, you might expect something out of the ordinary.
Filmed live at Lord’s, the ‘home of cricket’, Stumped imagines what moght have happened in such a meeting between two playwrights known for pauses and a sense of the absurd.
In a set suggestive of fading grandeur off the cricket pitch, both men wait for their turn to bat. Beckett keeps score. Both enter competitive conversation. The conceit of two men waiting is, of course, present in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter.
Alcohol is consumed. Works in progress and planned are discussed. Past glories are recalled. A cursory and begrudging mutual admiration is apparent, as is a love for the immortal Bard of Avon.
The place after the match is a village green, where both men wallow in their cups and their unsuccessful innings. Beckett teases Pinter. They wait for a lift. The telephone rings.
Shomit Dutta’s play understands the humour and poignancy in both men’s work, and also the sense of the mystery thriller. The dialogue whizzes back and forth like leather on willow, always reaching the boundary.
Guy Unsworth directs with a cracking pace which lets the cricket lingo crackle along with hints back to key works (an official called Jeff Crapp/Krapp may well have had his tapes out).
Stumped is a hugely enjoyable play which runs a tight 52 minutes. Tompkinson’s Beckett is delightful; Lancel’s Pinter nervy and terse. They play like a comedy double act, well rehearsed and comfortable.
You can watch Stumped on-demand via Original Theatre from 27 September for a year: tickets here.