The Lover, James House, Hove, May 1 Harold Pinter has always been regarded as the master of silence and torment, the purveyor of monumental pauses that say more than words.

And in its beautiful setting in James House in Brunswick Terrace, with the audience scattered in 20 or so seats set around the edges of the venue’s living room, with a grand piano in one corner and a solitary dining table and chairs beneath the high ceiling, The Magic Bones’ production of The Lover began with the trademark lull. The repressed, reserved couple, who reignite their marriage with some role play as adulterous lovers in the afternoons, paced the floor ominously.

But this one-act play, first screened on ITV in the early 1960s, is more a tale of illicit desire and eroticism than taut terror. The tension lies in the dichotomy of a respectable couple indulging in erotic fantasy and how to reconcile carnal desire with social expectations.

Thus the long introductory silence was more about about how stiff the couple’s relationship really is and the setting an attempt to recreate the bourgeois.

But it was difficult to believe. Victoria Hancock made a reasonably convincing housewife as Sarah, switching with ease between a doting Madonna figure and an empowered whore who loved to be led around the home on her knees and in her high heels, while never really becoming electrifying.

Gavin Fowler, who performs with musical comedy act El Duo Bongo, played respectable husband Richard, whose conversation strays little from the weather, the office and the occasional wisecrack, and incorporated his love of drumming to signify when things were becoming heated. He doubled as his wife’s plaything Max, who is of course her husband in character, to whose jocular style he was more suited.

The production felt a little loose, but perhaps that’s as Pinter had intended when he wrote it as part comic, part dark drama. The language, which is so beautifully of its time, is another reason the play is so rarely revisited. It is as difficult to relate to as the manner of the affairs, especially with social expectations so different nowadays, and as Pinter would probably admit, the play is not one of his best.