THE past, said LP Hartley, is another country, a truth powerfully borne out by Harold Pinter's Old Times, playing until Saturday at Malvern Theatre.

Filmmaker Deeley (Neil Pearson) and his cool, enigmatic wife Kate (Janie Dee) live in an isolated farmhouse by the sea - his work takes him away a lot and while he's gone, she "continues" - but the calm surface of their lives is shattered when Kate's friend and former flatmate, Anna (Susannah Harker) arrives from Sicily.

It is 20 years since the women met - Deeley has never met Anna - and Anna soon launches into frenetic reminiscences. But beneath the nostalgia lies a tension that quickly breaks into a brittle verbal battle between Deeley and Anna for possession of Kate.

But is all or any of what's remembered true? Has Deeley really never met Anna? Is she real or simply a manifestion of something he would like his detached and languid wife to be?

Stand-out performances from all three actors combine with Pinter's razor-sharp dialogue and Sir Peter Hall's direction to create an unmissable evening in the theatre - challenging, thought-provoking, confusing even, but absolutely mesmerising.