Pinter at the Pinter is changing my mind about Harold Pinter – quite the feat since it hasn’t even opened yet. I’m excited about seeing plays being staged by a team who are really passionate about them. I first came across Pinter’s work while studying The Homecoming. Like everyone’s first experience of him, I was in awe of the use of silence. How such simple sentences could be so menacing.
I don’t know when I decided I wasn’t into Pinter (possibly when I sat behind two men in the theatre one turning to the other and saying, “I don’t know about you but I never feel more like I’m at a play than when I’m at a Pinter play” and I thought *EYEROLL – what does that even mean?!) Somehow, Pinter became synonymous with obnoxious I’m-so-smart-and-get-theatah types. But reading about this season I became very aware of two things. Many people I admire are invested in this and I’ve never seen even one of these shows on stage or screen. In fact, I’ve only read Mountain Language, once, years ago and I loved it.
He’s difficult to stage, to gauge the balance. When is it funny? When is it menacing? And rarely are an entire audience on the same page. So, while you quake at impending doom, people around you are tittering away. I find it distracting. But sometimes, there’s a production where the audience are in sync with the production and it is electric. No Man’s Land at the Wyndham’s Theatre was like this. I think I didn’t really breathe for most of it.
When it comes to Pinter, we always know that this is possible. And this season is setting itself up to make sure that it happens. The Room, his first play, will be directed by his colleague and friend, Patrick Marber. Who better to take us through a fear inducing, political comedy? Anyone who’s seen Jane Horrocks in Instructions for Correct Assembly will know how well she can pair comedy with a vague sense of unease.
Martin Freeman will act in The Dumb Waiter, another actor who masters threatening comic roles. The casting seems to be on point, and there are more announcements to come. Pairing Tracy-Ann Oberman and Celia Imrie seems like a match in heaven in Party Time and Celebration. To be honest, I was previously unaware Lia Williams directs but I would watch her read the phone book so can’t wait to see her Ashes to Ashes and particularly what’ll happen to, my old friend, Mountain Language.
Reading about this season has made me excited to discover the works of Harold Pinter (again). It feels a little like I’m reclaiming him. At the very least, this time next year, if you have any questions about the man’s work, I’ll have a solid basis in his short plays, who knows, I might even be a connoisseur, waxing lyrical about how I never feel more like I’m at a play than when I’m at a Pinter play.