THE DUMB WAITER was first presented at the Hampstead Theatre Club on 21st January, 1960, with the following cast:
BEN Nicholas Selby
GUS George Tovey
Directed by James Roose – Evans
Ben and Gus are two professional killers hired by mysterious criminal organization. Only a city name and an address are given to them for a job. They are sitting in a room, waiting for their next victim to enter the room through a t door on the right.
Who this time shall enter through the door?
The play starts and finishes in the same place: in a basement room. Ben is lying on a bed reading a newspaper, while Gus is tying his shoe laces. At the beginning, the characters don’t speak but they do some different actions and it is as it Ben as if examines Gus’s movements.
They start to communicate about the newspaper notice: Ben does not in agree with the notice that he had read and he shows his disapproval to Gus. In the meantime, Gus picks up a small bag by his bed and takes out a packet of tea. They start to question their life. In fact Ben accuses Gus to not have any interest other than his job. They go on to speak about many different things, at one point an envelope slides under the door. Gus sees it and he warns Ben about it. Gus slowly moves towards it, bends and picks it up. They start to ask themselves what it is. Gus opens it and looks inside: there are only some matches. Gus empties twelve matches into his hand.
He gives the envelope to Ben and he examines it. They find the strange envelope’s contents very funny. Gus goes to his bed and takes out a revolver from under the pillow. He goes to the door, opens it, looks out and shuts it. There are any people outside, so he replaces his revolver. Now they can light the kettle. They start to debate about the kettle and
Ben complains because Gus always asks him many questions. At one time Gus asks Ben how many times he has read the newspaper. Ben, very angry, attacks Gus and rebukes him. At one point there is a loud clatter and racket in the bulge of wall between the beds, of something descending. This noise interrupts their conversation. Ben and Gus grab their revolvers, jump up and face the wall. Gus puts his revolver on his bed and pats along the bottom of the centre panel. They discover the Dumb Waiter, a wide box held by pulleys. Gus looks inside the Dumb Waiter and he takes out a piece of paper. He reads what is written on the paper. It is a sort of list about different kinds of food and drinks. In Ben’s opinion probably this place is a kind of restaurant and the box is probably used to send the order to the kitchen. The box descends again with a clatter and bang, Ben levels his revolver and Gus goes to the box and takes out another piece of paper. It’s again a list of food and drinks. Ben decides to send something up. They have got a bag with something inside to eat and drink. They prepare a plate to send up but when they are ready the box goes up without the plate. So, Ben puts the plate on the bed, puts on his shoulder holster, and starts to put on his tie, in the meantime Gus is sitting on his bed, puts on his tie, and starts to fix his holster. Gus starts to ask many questions to Ben about the room where they are and he finds some contradiction: the place probably is a Café but in this room there are only three rings, too few for a busy place like this. Ben starts to become nervous, Gus asks too much question! During the conversation the box descends another time. Inside there is a paper, Gus takes it and then they put the plate into the box and the Dumb Waiter goes up. They start to speak again and at the same time the box descends, Gus takes the paper and looks back at the box: a packet of tea is inside it! He picks it up and shows it to Ben. He decides to write a note to inform the people who use the box that they cannot prepare tea. Gus, turning for a pencil, suddenly discovers the speaking tube. Ben explains to Gus what this is and how it works. Then Gus takes the tube and he starts to speak. He wants tell the people upstairs that they sent up all they had. He starts a conversation at the speaking tube and the other interlocutor rebukes him for the bad food and drinks they have sent. At one point the voice ceases and Gus hangs up the tube. They start to quarrel about the tea to send up and Gus makes a monologue. He complains to himself because in his room there is nothing to eat or drink, instead the people who are upstairs have a lot of things to eat and drink. It should be the contrary: the people upstairs should send the food downstairs!!! At this point Ben reminds to Gus that time is passing and he must give the instruction to his accomplice. Gus sighs and sits next to Ben on the bed. The instructions are stated and repeated automatically.
After Gus goes to the bathroom and when he comes back to the room he asks Ben why, if the people who are upstairs know they are without gas, they have sent matches. Gus wants know who these people are and what they want, and he believes that Ben knows the identity of these people, in facts he asks him many questions. The box in the shaft comes down behind them. The noise is this time accompanied by a shrill whistle, as it falls. Gus rushes to the hatch and seizes the note. He crumples the note, picks up the tube, takes out the whistle and says that they’ve got nothing left. Ben seizes the tube and flings Gus away. He follows Gus and slaps him hard, back–handed, across the chest. He has become very nervous so it is better if he stays faraway from the speaking tube. Ben hangs up the tube and he goes to his bed and lies down. He picks up his paper and reads it. Suddenly the box goes up. They turn quickly, their eyes meet. Ben turns to his paper. Slowly Gus goes back to his bed, and he goes to have a glass of water. Ben brushes dust off his clothes and shoes. The whistle in the speaking–tube blows. He goes to it, takes the whistle out and puts the tube to his ear. He listens and puts it to his mouth. The victim has arrived and they go into action - the normal method employed. Ben takes out a comb and combs his hair, adjusts his jacket to diminish the bulge of the revolver and he quickly goes to the left door. The door on the right opens sharply, Ben turns, his revolver leveled at the door. Gus, who was at the toilette, stumbles in. he is stripped of his jacket, waistcoat, tie, holster and revolver. He stops, body stooping, his arms at his sides. He raises his head and looks at Ben. The silence reigns. They stare at each other.