Tag Archives: Andrew Lancel




Hampstead Theatre

STUMPED at the Hampstead Theatre



“Silent, subtle and subliminal humour give way to laugh out loud moments, while still maintaining the gentle rhythms of Guy Unsworth’s immaculately paced staging”


Samuel Beckett once advised the leading actors in “Waiting for Godot” to think of Vladimir and Estragon as two batsmen padded up, waiting to take their turn on the cricket pitch. Perhaps that’s not too surprising. Beckett was a cricket devotee and quite a first-class player. Sharing his love of the game was Harold Pinter, who once described cricket as “the greatest thing that God created on earth”. An absurd claim, many will no doubt consider, but the ‘absurdist’ tag has stuck to Pinter, and to Beckett, since the early 1960s.

Cricket wasn’t the only thing that Beckett and Pinter had in common, yet it is the main focus of Shomit Dutta’s new drama, “Stumped”. Originally streamed live from Lord’s Cricket Ground last September, it now has another innings at Hampstead Theatre. The play envisages the two writers turning up together at a cricket match in Oxfordshire and agonising about their turn to bat for the team. It draws on their friendship, their friendly rivalry but also very cleverly moulds the real-life personalities into characters that could have walked straight out of one of their own creations.

The couple spend most of their time waiting. An alternative title could indeed be “Waiting to Bat”, or even just “Wait” – a phrase often shouted to the unseen batsmen out in the field. At one point Beckett even asks ‘what now?’, to which Pinter replies ‘we wait!’. Dutta has pitched the minimalist absurdism quite perfectly, and the two actors pick up on the fine detail with beautifully nuanced and understated performances. Stephen Tompkinson is Beckett, thoughtful and slightly ethereal with a bit of a bite. Andrew Lancel’s Pinter is a touch more grounded, yet cautiously anxious about the ‘No Man’s Land’ they find themselves in. After the match is over, they are promised a lift back to London by a fellow cricketer called ‘Doggo’. Of course, they then spend a fair bit of time waiting for Doggo.

It doesn’t give anything away to reveal that Doggo never materialises, so Beckett and Pinter navigate their own way to a deserted railway station. Where they wait again. As time progresses the absurdity expands to fill the pauses, and so does our enjoyment of the piece. Silent, subtle and subliminal humour give way to laugh out loud moments, while still maintaining the gentle rhythms of Guy Unsworth’s immaculately paced staging. The chemistry between Tompkinson and Lancel is unmistakable. Theirs is a friendship that mixes conflict with harmony, rivalry with unity, attack with defence. We feel the affection despite it being partially buried beneath sharp irony.

There are moments where we wonder where it is all leading. They are fleeting moments. Beckett and Pinter, resigned to the fact that no train is coming to take them home, suggest just following the rail tracks. “Where to?” asks Pinter. “Wherever it leads” is Beckett’s typically sardonic response. This throwaway gem encapsulates it all: the style and the personalities. And we, the audience, are more than content to follow them – no matter where they are going. Even if it is nowhere.

In fitting fashion, it is all metaphor. One doesn’t need to share the same passion for cricket at all. Dutta does, having known Harold Pinter through the Gaities (a wandering cricket club for which Pinter was captain, and later chairman). Yes, the play is a tribute to the game, but more so it is a genuine tribute to the playwrights, and to their writing. Dutta has hit a six with this.



Reviewed on 26th June 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Pamela Raith


Previously reviewed at this venue:


Linck & Mülhahn | ★★★★ | February 2023
The Art of Illusion | ★★★★★ | January 2023
Sons of the Prophet | ★★★★ | December 2022
Blackout Songs | ★★★★ | November 2022
Mary | ★★★★ | October 2022
The Fellowship | ★★★ | June 2022
The Breach | ★★★ | May 2022
The Fever Syndrome | ★★★ | April 2022
The Forest | ★★★ | February 2022
Night Mother | ★★★★ | October 2021

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