The Winterling – reviews of Butterworth's 'twisted thriller'

Aug 14, 2014

An 'exhilarating' revivial of Jez Butterworth's 2006 gangster tale with a hint of Pinter

What you need to know

Focusing on a gangland fugitive whose past catches up with him, Jez Butterworth's 2006 play The Winterling has been somewhat overlooked since his subsequent hit Jerusalem. But it has been revived and is running at the Theatre By The Lake in Keswick until 5 November

The twisted thriller, set in the winter of Dartmoor, has been described as a combination of Harold Pinter and Guy Ritchie with a dash of Withnail and I.

What the critics like

"Cocked and loaded dialogue is Butterworth's forte," observes Dominic Cavendish of the Daily Telegraph, and when the characters square up to each other, whether "in little asides or big arias, the effect is exhilarating".

Alan Cleaver in The Stage says a strong cast creates a truly haunting effect, "as each of the actors ensure their character has dug so deeply under the audience's skin, they will live long after the play ends". 

The set and lighting suggest "a faintly organic dereliction", says Stephen Longstaffe in What's On Stage. "The subtleties of Maura Guthrie's sound design" are also impressive.

What they don't like

Several critics have noted the influence of Harold Pinter on the play – not all of them approvingly. Back in 2006, The Guardian's Michael Billington was put off by the ubiquity of the "Pinter influence", finding it emblematic of the tendency of "many writers" to imitate "the master's voice rather than discovering their own".

Billington also felt that the script lacked something. It does no more than tell us "that man is a territorial animal engaged in a desperate battle for survival".

Sign up for our daily newsletter