Pinter 3, Pinter at the Pinter Season, Pinter Theatre, London WC1

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Pinter at the Pinter is a season of all of Harold Pinter’s one act plays in 7 different programmes over a period of 6 months. Previously on this blog: Pinter 1, Pinter 2 and Pinter 4

The most well known pieces in this collection are “Landscape” and “A kind of Alaska”. These are the opening and closing items and they take up the greater part of the show. They are both interesting and have excellent performances from Tamsin Greig and Keith Allen. Tamsin Greig is spellbinding as a woman attempting to come to terms with the fact that she went to sleep at 16 years of age and only awakened 29 years later.

There are 9 other vignettes in the evening and although a couple might not do any favours to Pinter’s reputation, Jamie Lloyd has unearthed some absolute gems from among his lesser known pieces. Closing the fist half, Lee Evans does a piece called “Monologue” where he effectively has a conversation with an empty chair. This is funny and poignant, and Lee Evans’ uniquely physical delivery brings extra empathy to the character.

“Night” is very unusual amongst the Pinter work in that it is resolutely positive in tone. Meera Syal and Tom Edden make the most of the upbeat lines and portray a couple who patently care for each other, even at those times when their memories differ. This is a short sketch, perhaps only five minutes long, but it is sublime to see Pinter’s words made sweet.  “Trouble in the Works” is another short sketch, absurd abstract comedy, well done and very funny. It is like Monty Python in style but it was written in 1959, so it predates them by a whole decade.

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Great care has been taken in the direction of this presentation to make all the individual pieces link together, and the show certainly does not feel like it is made up of 11 discrete items. This is helped by the ingenious set design which is a slowly spinning living room, highlighting a different area each time it turns. Even though many of the sketches only have one or two of the actors actively involved, Jamie Lloyd has cleverly joined them up so the whole has the feel of a single ensemble piece. This is most apparent in the sketch “God’s District” which is a solo comedy item, delivered by Meera Syal, but by the end it has all 5 of the actors playing instruments or singing along.

Overall, the quality of the writing is very high and the acting is a joy to watch. A couple of the pieces have not aged well, perhaps we are more sensitive to hints of sexism now than we were when it was written. This is Pinter though, so it is hard to say for certain, and they could be seen as his comment on the times in which he lived. Having said that, this compilation is positively uplifting compared to some of his darker anthologies. After watching Pinter’s 1 and 4, I had begun to wonder whether I had the fortitude to watch the rest of the season, but now that I have seen this, I am looking forward to 5, 6. and 7 with a spring in my step.

6 thoughts on “Pinter 3, Pinter at the Pinter Season, Pinter Theatre, London WC1”

  1. Really like the sound of this, lots of small playlets (is that a word) in one evening. Not seen much of Pinter so it would all be new to me. Another good night out.

  2. I have vague memories of seeing a Harold Pinter play in London (at the Nationsl Theatre’s smaller space?), but cannot recall the title. A theatre-minded friend from Alaska met Mr. Pinter some decades ago, in Alaska. I wonder whether he saw these two shows about Alaska. The idea of tying together 11 pieces on one set sounds intriguing… or like a Monty Python series of energetic, though provoking, mad-cap skits. Wonder where they got the idea (P.S. Shakespeare is full of politically-incorrect images that we find distasteful, like beheading one’s enemies and sticking the heads on pikes…) – Oscar

    1. Actually, you make a very good point, perhaps we overlook Shakespeare’s distastefulness because we feel distant from it – we make it part of the period drama. I guess Pinter was just commenting on the time he was writing too. It would have been great to meet Pinter, I wonder if he was as prickly in real life as his plays are!

      1. Last weekend, we saw a production of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” (too busy with Thanksgiving visitors to write at the moment). One of the issues that the director addressed was updating the book (working with the official writers) to bring this production into the present without losing the 1930’s cruise-ship atmosphere. Of course, being producted in Washington, D.C. it was pretty easy to drop in some general reference to power politics, corruption, social elitism, and escapism. Duhhhh.

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