Tag Archives: Guy Unsworth




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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Some Mothers do ‘Ave ‘Em – UK Tour

Do 'ave 'em

Joe Pasquale will star as the loveable but accident-prone Frank Spencer in the first ever stage production of the classic 1970s TV comedy, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em. Sarah Earnshaw will play his long-suffering wife Betty and Susie Blake his disapproving mother-in-law, Mrs Fisher. The stage adaptation has been written by Guy Unsworth, based on the original TV series by Raymond Allen. Guy Unsworth will also be directing, with design by Simon Higlett.

The UK Tour of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em will open at the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon on Wednesday 21 February 2018. 


Comedian Joe Pasquale has delighted audiences with his live stand-up tours for over 20 years and made his theatrical debut in 1999 in Larry Shue’s The Nerd, followed by the touring productions of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Mel Brooks’s The Producers, The Wizard of Oz and, more recently, the West End and touring productions of Spamalot, as King Arthur. In addition, Joe was crowned ‘King of the Jungle’ in ITV’s I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! in 2004, and hosted the long-running television series The Price is Right for ITV.

Sarah Earnshaw will be starring as Jennifer Lore in the UK Tour of Nativity – The Musical this autumn, and other theatre credits include Travels With My Aunt (Chichester Festival), The Lady of the Lake in Spamalot (West End and UK Tour) and the original London cast of Wicked.

Susie Blake regularly appeared in the TV series and comedy specials of Victoria Wood, Russ Abbot and Stanley Baxter, and is perhaps particularly loved as the Continuity Announcer in Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV. More recently, she played regular Bev Unwin in Coronation Street from 2003 – 2006 and then made a comeback in 2015, and regular Hillary Nicholson in Mrs Brown’s Boys. Her films include Fierce Creatures and Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?!. Her theatre credits include Grumpy Old Women Live 2 & 3, When We Are Married (West End), Pygmalion (Chichester Festival Theatre), Madame Morrible in Wicked (West End) and Belinda Blair in Noises Off (National Theatre).

The UK Tour will be produced by Limelight Productions.






21 – 24 February Wyvern Theatre, Swindon

27 February – 3 March Opera House, Buxton

12 – 17 March Churchill Theatre, Bromley

19 – 24 March New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth

2 – 7 April Lyceum Theatre, Crewe

9 – 14 April His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen

16 – 21 April Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne

8 – 12 May Orchard Theatre, Dartford

15 – 19 May Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

25 – 30 June New Theatre, Hull


Photography by Michael Wharley




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