Last Updated on January 3, 2019 by Fiona Maclean
Pinter at the Pinter is a unique theatrical event, presenting together – for the first time ever – all his 20 one-act plays.
Harold Pinter is vintage; an evergreen, 20th Century classic. Born in Hackney, London, in 1930, he lived with Antonia Fraser from 1975 until his death on Christmas Eve 2008.
He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005 and was lauded throughout his life as one of the greatest living playwrights; he changed the face of theatre and had an extraordinary impact on how it was written and performed, and who it represented on stage. He wrote his first play, The Room, in 1957, and from there went on to write 29 more.
Artistic Director Jamie Lloyd said: ‘This season is an extraordinary opportunity to celebrate the legacy of an icon. Harold Pinter revolutionised international theatre and the political force of his words feels more vital than ever.’
Presented in repertoire, directed by theatre luminaries Jamie Lloyd, Patrick Marber, Lyndsey Turner, Ed Stambollouian and Lia Williams, the company includes some of our most talented creatives – many of whom were Pinter’s friends and collaborators. A sterling cast includes Jane Horrocks, Rupert Graves, Ron Cook, Danny Dyer, Martin Freeman, Tamsin Greig, Celia Imrie, John Macmillan, Colin Mcfarlane, Emma Naomi, Tracy Ann Oberman, Abraham Popoola, David Suchet and Nicholas Woodeson.
Lloyd continued: ‘On the tenth anniversary of Harold Pinter’s death, it feels very important to acknowledge his impact on our cultural and political lives. I am particularly excited to be introducing a huge body of Harold’s work – by turns dangerous, weird, riotously funny, beautifully lyrical and explosively political – to our young, diverse audience.’
The intimate Curzon Street venue perfectly evokes ‘Pinterland’ in its hip, Cold-War heyday. From the interesting looking queue to the cool jazz on the sound system, there’s a definite buzz and sense of being ‘in’ on something.
Indeed, an evening that is both clever and provocative awaits.
The Room (1957)
A dowdy, claustrophobic ‘50’s bedsitter, somewhere.
Skittish Rose – played with chirpy hysteria, by brilliant Jane Horrocks – sets an unnerving domestic scene as she serves breakfast to husband Bert (played with buckets of menace by Rupert Graves). Bert is a man of few words, his brooding silence an impenetrable foil against the wife’s anxious babble. He’s going out soon, into the cold and dark…some kind of delivery…
She, meanwhile, is eager to stay indoors within four dingy walls; safe – or so she thinks – from the world beyond. The outside keeps finding its way in, though, with a series of uninvited visitors, including the wonderfully gruff landlord Mr Kidd (Nicholas Woodeson), and quirky couple Mr and Mrs Sands (Luke Thallon and Emma Naomi).
And things are set to become much more frightening when Riley (played by Colin Mcfarlane) arrives…
Victoria Station (1982)
Two actors in two windows. A dim, tungsten-lit diptych. Mcfarlane plays as an upbeat, harassed mini-cab controller who can’t get hold of any available drivers – apart from ‘Number 274’, disconcertingly portrayed by Rupert Graves. A simple request to pick up a passenger at Victoria Station becomes comically complicated and darker by the moment, as the controller desperately tries to grasp what’s going on in the head of ‘274’. And who is the passenger – with whom the driver claims to have fallen in love – silent, unmoving, possibly dead, in the back of the cab?
Family Voices (1981)
Jane Horrocks (Voice 2) is the bereft mother, who – in a series of increasingly desperate communiques – is trying to reach her son. He’s left the family home for lodgings somewhat seedy and degenerate, somewhere in the city. Luke Thallon (Voice 1) shines as the twitchy, angst-ridden young man, making what sense he can of his weird, predatory housemates, and grieving the loss of his father (Rupert Graves, Voice 3). There’s a musty odour of corruption here; interlocking monologues reveal familial dysfunction; a succession of misunderstandings, ambiguities and ambivalences keep each person wrapped in their own painful world. Tense and cryptic, Family Voices is stylised, acutely absurd and marvellously ‘Pinteresque’.
Pinter’s voice remains as always tight and terse, punctuated by long, suggestive silences. The laughter is dark and savage, suffused with threat. There are moments of compassion and tender pathos, but these are a counterpoint to a seemingly essential, existential violence.
Here is human intercourse by way of power, coercion, collusion and attrition; boredom and fear, tested to the point of destruction in a furious dance-macabre. The audience is left tingling, wondering and wanting to know more. Who are these ‘actors’, pinioned snarling and mutilated like creatures in a Francis Bacon painting?
In a way, they’re us. How did we get here, though? And where on earth are we going?
If you’re in search of something coolly, cruelly comical (and more than a little menacing) to chase away the Sugar-Plum Fairies, you will do no better than Pinter Five, at the Harold Pinter Theatre, directed by Patrick Marber.
Pinter 5 playing until 26th January
Harold Pinter Theatre
Panton St, London SW1Y 4DN
Please book your tickets on the from the box office website here
For other entertainment recommendations showing in January 2019, we recommend Caroline, or Change at The Playhouse Theatre