Daily Archives: 27 Δεκέμβριος, 2008

In Words and in Silence, a Writer of Rare Power

From left, Raul Esparza, Michael McKean and Ian McShane in a 2007 Broadway production of "The Homecoming," considered one of Harold Pinter's classic works.
Letting the subtext speak volumes: From left, Raul Esparza, Michael McKean and Ian McShane in a 2007 Broadway production of «The Homecoming,» considered one of Harold Pinter’s classic works. (By Scott Landis Via Associated Press)
Playwright Harold Pinter won a Nobel Prize in 2005.
Playwright Harold Pinter won a Nobel Prize in 2005. (Bruno Vincent – Getty Images)
Pinter in 1976 with his wife, Lady Antonia Fraser. The pause-freighted speaking cadences in his plays continue to challenge actors.
Pinter in 1976 with his wife, Lady Antonia Fraser. The pause-freighted speaking cadences in his plays continue to challenge actors. (By Ron Frehm — Associated Press)
By Peter Marks,
Washington Post Staff Writer, Friday, December 26, 2008
Let us pause. And in deference to a man who knew precisely how to wring meaning from silence, stop just a little longer.

Harold Pinter, prospector of 24-karat drama in the tension-racked spaces between words, died in London on Wednesday, at age 78. With his death, the pool of contemporary playwrights of international literary stature has been all but drained dry.

Although he expressed the views of a pacifist, Pinter wrote as if he held his finger on the pin of a grenade. In modernist classics such as «The Homecoming,» «Old Times» and «No Man’s Land,» he devised characters who spoke in elliptical asides and enigmatic bursts. Violence of some nature was never out of the realm of possibility, even in his quietest plays. For Pinter was a connoisseur of subtext, of letting a story unfold on a living room set while a more savage one simmered in the crawl spaces of the mind. His characters routinely rattle each other with what never gains utterance.

His stark black-comic sensibility and economical use of language owed much to Samuel Beckett, the father of existential 20th-century drama. It was a debt that Pinter, who got his start as an actor in postwar Britain, readily acknowledged. When the Nobel Academy gave him the prize for literature in 2005, the act affirmed his link to Beckett, who had won it 36 years earlier. That they are among the few English-speaking dramatists to have received the award speaks to the nonpareil influence they both wielded over the style and force of the modern theater.

Power and turf are always at issue in Pinter. You get to see in his plays how much the anatomy of our emotional entanglements is built on ever-shifting questions of who’s up and who’s down

Whether the conflict is over primacy in a Darwinian family struggle («The Homecoming»), control of the memories of long-ago events («Old Times») or the psychological upper hand in a metamorphosing love triangle («Betrayal»), his works are taut battlefields. Unlike Beckett, though, whose seminal plays such as «Waiting for Godot» are placed in barren, metaphysical landscapes, Pinter’s tend toward cozier, bourgeois surroundings. In his hands these spaces seem as raw and terrifying as any heath.

Audiences do, at times, engage in head-scratching over Pinter’s peculiar rhythms. As noted by Peter Hall, a friend who directed many of his 30 works for the stage, the playwright’s eccentric cadences were challenging for actors, too: the long silences, shorter pauses and brief hesitations were ubiquitous features of his scripts. «The actors had to understand why there were these differences,» Hall explained in his 1993 autobiography. «They chafed a little, but finally accepted that what was not said often spoke as forcefully as the words themselves.»

Over time, Pinter’s work became more overtly political, and his vehemence drew controversy. (As a young man, he claimed status as a conscientious objector.) He was outspoken in his outrage at the invasion of Iraq, and described in a speech in 2005 his reaction to the policies of the Bush and Blair administrations as arousing nausea.

Pinter saved his subtlety for his dramatic voice. His blink-of-an-eye 1988 play «Mountain Language» painted in four short scenes the terrors of a regime that stripped a minority population of its freedom, its dignity and finally, in banning the speaking of its language, even its words. To one who used them to such captivating effect, this truly would have seemed a crime against humanity.

British playwright Harold Pinter dies of cancer at 78

Associated Press

The Baltimore Sun, December 26, 2008

LONDON – British Nobel laureate Harold Pinter – who produced some of his generation’s most influential dramas and later became a staunch critic of the U.S.-led war in Iraq – has died, his widow said yesterday. He was 78.

Pinter died Wednesday after a long battle with cancer, according to his second wife, Antonia Fraser.

In recent years he had seized the platform offered by his 2005 Nobel Literature prize to denounce President George W. Bush, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the war in Iraq.

But he was best known for exposing the complexities of the emotional battlefield.

His writing featured cool, menacing pauses in dialogue that reflected his characters’ deep emotional struggles and spawned a new adjective found in several dictionaries: «Pinteresque.»

«Pinter restored theater to its basic elements: an enclosed space and unpredictable dialogue, where people are at the mercy of each other and pretense crumbles,» the Nobel Academy said. «With a minimum of plot, drama emerges from the power struggle and hide-and-seek of interlocution.»

His characters’ internal fears and longings, their guilt and difficult sexual drives were set against the neat lives they constructed in order to try to survive. Usually enclosed in one room, the acts usually illustrated the characters’ lives as a sort of grim game with actions that often contradicted words. Gradually, the layers were peeled back.

«How can you write a happy play?» he once said. «Drama is about conflict and degrees of perturbation, disarray. I’ve never been able to write a happy play, but I’ve been able to enjoy a happy life.»

Pinter wrote 32 plays and one novel, The Dwarfs, which appeared in 1990; and he put his hand to 22 screenplays.

The working-class milieu of his first dramas reflected his early life as the son of a Jewish tailor from London’s East End.

Born Oct. 30, 1930, in the London neighborhood of Hackney, he was forced along with other children during World War II to evacuate to rural Cornwall in 1939. He was 14 before he returned. By then, he was entranced with Franz Kafka and Ernest Hemingway.

By 1950, Pinter had begun to publish poetry and appeared on stage as an actor. He began to write for the stage, and published The Room in 1957.

A year later, his first major play, The Birthday Party, was produced in the West End.

In it, intruders enter the retreat of Stanley, a young man who is hiding from childhood guilt. He becomes violent, telling them, «You stink of sin, you contaminate womankind.»

The play closed after just one week to disastrous reviews, but Pinter continued to write and was most prolific between 1957 and 1965.

«With his earliest work, he stood alone in British theater up against the bewilderment and incomprehension of critics, the audience and writers, too,» British playwright Tom Stoppard said when the Nobel Prize was announced.

In The Caretaer (1959), a manipulative old man threatens the relationship of two brothers, while The Homecoming (1964) explores the hidden rage and confused sexuality of an all-male household by inserting a woman.

In Silence and Landscape, (1967 and 1968) Pinter moved from exploring the underbelly of human life to showing the simultaneous levels of fantasy and reality that occupy the individual.

Betrayal (1978) was reportedly based on the disintegration of his marriage to Vivien Merchant, an actress who appeared in many of his first plays.

Their marriage ended in 1980 after Pinter’s long affair with a BBC presenter, Joan Bakewell. He then married Fraser. Merchant died shortly afterward of alcoholism-related disease.

During the late 1980s, his work became more overtly political; he said he had a responsibility to pursue his role as «a citizen of the world in which I live, [and] insist upon taking responsibility.»

Off-stage he was also highly political: Pinter turned down former Prime Minister John Major‘s offer of a knighthood and strongly attacked Blair when NATO bombed Serbia. He later referred to Blair as a «deluded idiot» for supporting Bush’s war in Iraq.

In March 2005, Pinter announced his retirement as a playwright to concentrate on politics. But he created a radio play,Voices, that was broadcast on BBC radio to mark his 75th birthday.

«I have written 29 plays, and I think that’s really enough,» Pinter said. «I think the world has had enough of my plays.»

Pinter’s influence was felt in the United States in the plays of Sam Shepard and David Mamet.

A list of better-known works by late British Nobel laureate Harold Pinter

Better-known works by the late British playwright Harold Pinter, who won the Nobel Literature prize in 2005.

___

PLAYS:

— «The Room» (1957)

— «The Birthday Party» (1957)

— «The Dumb Waiter» (1957)

— «A Slight Ache» (1958)

— «The Hothouse» (1958)

— «The Caretaker» (1959)

— «A Night Out» (1959)

— «Night School» (1960)

— «The Dwarfs» (1960)

— «The Collection» (1961)

— «The Lover» (1962)

— «Tea Party» (1964)

— «The Homecoming» (1964)

— «The Basement» (1966)

— «Landscape» (1967)

— «Silence» (1968)

— «Old Times» (1970)

— «Monologue» (1972)

— «No Man’s Land» (1974)

— «Betrayal» (1978)

— «Family Voices» (1980)

— «Other Places» (1982)

— «A Kind of Alaska» (1982)

— «Victoria Station» (1982)

— «One for the Road» (1984)

— «Mountain Language» (1988)

— «The New World Order» (1991)

— «Party Time» (1991)

— «Moonlight» (1993)

— «Ashes to Ashes» (1996)

— «Celebration» (1999)

— «Remembrance of Things Past» (2000)

POETRY

— «Poems and Prose 1949-1977» (1978)

— «Various Voices: Poetry, Prose, Politics, 1948-1998» (1998)

— «The Disappeared and Other Poems» (2002)

— «War: Eight Poems and One Speech» (2003)

NOVELS

— «The Dwarfs: A Novel» (1990)

SCREENPLAYS

— «The Caretaker» (1963)

— «The Servant» (1963)

— «The Pumpkin Eater» (1963)

— «The Quiller Memorandum» (1965)

— «Accident» (1966)

— «The Birthday Party» (1967)

— «The Go-Between» (1969)

— «The Homecoming» (1969)

— «Langrishe Go Down» (1970)

— «The Proust Screenplay» (1972)

— «The Last Tycoon» (1974)

— «The French Lieutenant’s Woman» (1980)

— «Betrayal» (1981)

— «Victory» (1982)

— «Turtle Diary» (1984)

— «The Handmaid’s Tale» (1987)

— «Reunion» (1988)

— «Heat of the Day» (1988)

— «Comfort of Strangers» (1989)

— «The Trial» (1989)

— «The Dreaming Child» (1997)

— «The Tragedy of King Lear» (2000)

British playwright Harold Pinter was a master of the sound of silence

NEW YORK (AP) — No one made the sound of silence more ominously theatrical than Harold Pinter.

The influential British playwright, who died Christmas Eve after a long battle with cancer, created unforgettable moments of quiet, often filled with terror, outrage or the blackest of humor.

The «Pinter pause,» as those silences were known, could send a shiver through an audience, jolting it into an unease that permeated many of his best plays, particularly such classics as «The Caretaker» and «The Homecoming.»

«Pinter-esque» became an adjective bandied about in all the best drama schools and playwriting classes.

Yet Pinter knew how to make words count. As he grew older, his plays became leaner, more succinct in their language and frequently ferociously political.

There was an economy to his writing, a paring away that suggested an affinity with another Nobel Prize-winning playwright, Samuel Beckett, who often examined the human condition in the most terse and terrifying way possible.

It took a while for theatergoers, especially American audiences, to get used to Pinter. He made his Broadway debut in 1961 with «The Caretaker,» which starred Alan Bates, Robert Shaw and Donald Pleasence.

The play, a bleak treatise on identity and possessiveness set in a squalid London attic, puzzled theatergoers who were unnerved by its menace and bewildered by its seemingly inconclusive tale of cat-and-mouse games.

No such problem greeted «The Homecoming,» usually considered Pinter’s masterwork. A best-play Tony winner in 1967, it has had several New York revivals since then, including a critically acclaimed Broadway production last year.

This distinctly atypical family drama of a tyrannical father, his dysfunctional sons and an obliging, sexually provocative daughter-in-law has become a contemporary masterwork.

In Pinter, linguistic clarity is all. From such early works as «The Room» and «The Birthday Party» right up through more recent efforts such as «Moonlight» and «Ashes to Ashes,» his preciseness of language is imperative even if an exact meaning can’t always be discerned.

It’s that ambiguity which has posed a special challenge to actors, a challenge readily accepted by many on both sides of the Atlantic. Pinter’s plays have provided memorable stage performances by a diverse parade of mesmerizing actors such as John Gielgud, Jason Robards, Ian McShane, Christopher Plummer, Eve Best, Ralph Richardson, Raul Esparza and Vivien Merchant, among others.

Pinter’s best writing wasn’t limited to theater. He wrote several elegant screenplays, particularly «The Go-Between» (1970), the tale of an illicit romance which starred Julie Christie and Alan Bates, and «The French Lieutenant’s Woman,» starring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons (1981).

In recent years, he found a renewed vigor and moral passion as politics bubbled to the surface of many of his later plays. A vociferous critic of the American and British involvement in Iraq, he often wrote of political violence, particularly in such works as «One for the Road.»

In 2005, when Pinter won the Nobel Prize, he was too frail to travel to Sweden to accept the award. But in a recorded lecture presented at the Swedish Academy, he said: «The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law.» He castigated both British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush.

Right to the end, Pinter’s outrage remained undiminished.

Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter dies at 78 after battle with cancer, his wife says

LONDON (AP) — Few playwrights but Harold Pinter are known for their deliberate use of silence — a dramatic style now known as «Pinter-esque» to describe the Nobel laureate’s use of halting dialogue and pregnant pauses.

Pinter, who died of cancer Wednesday at the age of 78, was considered the most influential British playwright of his generation. His works included 32 plays, one novel and 22 screenplays — dramas that delve into themes of injustice and guilt and inspired American playwrights Sam Shepard and David Mamet.

The American situation comedy Seinfeld once copied Pinter’s device of altering the chronology of a story during an episode, as he did in his 1978 play «Betrayal.» The same technique was used in the film, Memento. Similarly, a character on the teen drama Dawson’s Creek referenced Pinter, saying «You say one thing, but you mean another.»

Pinter was a master of language, using deliberately timed dialogue against the contradictory actions of his characters. Words were often framed by a one-room set that amplified and contained unsettling drama.

Many dictionaries now refer to his unique technique as «Pinter-esque.»

«The speech we hear is an indication of that which we don’t hear,» Pinter once said.

«It is a necessary avoidance, a violent, sly and anguished or mocking smoke screen which keeps the other in its true place. When true silence falls we are left with echo but are nearer nakedness. One way of looking at speech is to say that it is a constant stratagem to cover nakedness.»

The working-class milieu of his plays like «The Birthday Party» and «The Homecoming» reflected Pinter’s early life as the son of a Jewish tailor from London’s East End.

He once said: «How can you write a happy play? Drama is about conflict and degrees of perturbation, disarray. I’ve never been able to write a happy play, but I’ve been able to enjoy a happy life.»

«Betrayal,» a story of a woman who cheats on her husband, was reportedly based on the disintegration of his marriage to actress Vivien Merchant, who appeared in many of his first plays.

Their marriage ended in 1980 after Pinter’s long affair with BBC presenter Joan Bakewell. He then married writer and historian Antonia Fraser. Merchant died shortly afterward of alcoholism-related disease.

«With his earliest work, he stood alone in British theater up against the bewilderment and incomprehension of critics, the audience and writers too,» British playwright Tom Stoppard said when Pinter won the Nobel in 2005.

Most prolific between 1957 and 1965, Pinter relished the juxtaposition of brutality and the banal and turned the conversational pause into an emotional minefield.

His characters’ internal fears and longings, their guilt and difficult sexual drives were set against the neat lives they constructed in order to try to survive. Usually enclosed in one room, the acts often illustrated the characters’ lives as a sort of grim game with actions that contradicted words. Gradually, the layers were peeled back.

In his first major play, «The Birthday Party» (1958), intruders enter the retreat of Stanley, a young man who is hiding from childhood guilt. He becomes violent, telling them, «You stink of sin, you contaminate womankind.»

In «The Caretaker» (1959), a manipulative old man threatens the fragile relationship of two brothers, while «The Homecoming» (1964) explores the hidden rage and confused sexuality of an all-male household by inserting a woman.

In «Silence» and «Landscape,» (1967 and 1968) Pinter moved from exploring the underbelly of human life to showing the simultaneous levels of fantasy and reality that occupy the individual.

«Pinter restored theater to its basic elements: an enclosed space and unpredictable dialogue, where people are at the mercy of each other and pretense crumbles,» the Nobel Academy said when it announced Pinter’s award. «With a minimum of plot, drama emerges from the power struggle and hide-and-seek of interlocution.»

Pinter showed the same passion for politics as he did in his plays, though the political messages in his plays were subtle — underlying themes of oppression, injustice, conflict and conscience were clear in many of his best known works.

In real life, the Nobel Prize gave Pinter a global platform to denounce U.S. President George W. Bush and then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

«The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law,» Pinter said in his Nobel lecture, which he recorded rather than traveling to the Swedish capital of Stockholm.

«How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand?» he asked, in a hoarse voice.

Weakened by cancer and bandaged from a fall on a slippery pavement, Pinter seemed a vulnerable old man when he emerged from his London home to speak about the Nobel Award.

Though he had been looking forward to giving a Nobel lecture — calling it «the longest speech I will ever have made» — he first canceled plans to attend the award ceremony, then announced he would skip the lecture as well on his doctor’s advice.

Pinter turned down a knighthood and attacked Blair when NATO bombed Serbia. He later referred to Blair a «deluded idiot» for supporting Bush’s war in Iraq.

He said he deeply regretted having voted for Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and Tony Blair in 1997.

Pinter was born Oct. 30, 1930, in the London neighborhood of Hackney, and in 1939 was forced along with other children to evacuate to rural Cornwall during World War II. By the time he returned at age 14, he was entranced with Franz Kafka and Ernest Hemingway.

By 1950, Pinter had begun to publish poetry and appear on stage as an actor. Pinter started to write for the stage, and published «The Room» in 1957.

A year later, The Birthday Party was produced in the West End, and despite closing after just one week to disastrous reviews, Pinter continued to write.

«I find critics on the whole a pretty unnecessary bunch of people,» he once said.

Michael Billington, Pinter’s friend and biographer, praised Pinter.

«Harold was a political figure, a polemicist and carried on fierce battles against American foreign policy and often British foreign policy, but in private he was the most incredibly loyal of friends and generous of human beings,» he said. «He was a great man as well actually as a great playwright.»

During the late 1980s, his work became more overtly political; he said he had a responsibility to pursue his role as «a citizen of the world in which I live, (and) insist upon taking responsibility.»

In the 1980s, Pinter’s only stage plays were one-acts: «A Kind of Alaska» (1982), «One for the Road» (1984) and the 20-minute «Mountain Language» (1988).

Pinter announced his retirement as a playwright in March 2005 to concentrate on politics. But he created a radio play, «Voices,» that was broadcast on BBC radio to mark his 75th birthday.

«I have written 29 plays and I think that’s really enough,» Pinter said. «I think the world has had enough of my plays.»

Former lawmaker Tony Benn, of the governing Labour Party, said Pinter’s death «will leave a huge gap that will be felt by the whole political spectrum.»

Pinter is survived by his son, Daniel, from his marriage to Merchant.

British playwright Harold Pinter dies of cancer at 78

LONDON – Harold Pinter, praised as the most influential British playwright of his generation and a longtime voice of political protest, has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 78.

Pinter, whose distinctive contribution to the stage was recognized with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, died Wednesday, according to his second wife, Lady Antonia Fraser.

«Pinter restored theater to its basic elements: an enclosed space and unpredictable dialogue, where people are at the mercy of each other and pretense crumbles,» the Nobel Academy said when it announced Pinter’s award. «With a minimum of plot, drama emerges from the power struggle and hide-and-seek of interlocution.»

The Nobel Prize gave Pinter a global platform which he seized enthusiastically to denounce U.S. President George W. Bush and then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

«The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law,» Pinter said in his Nobel lecture, which he recorded rather than traveling to Stockholm.

«How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand?» he asked, in a hoarse voice.

Weakened by cancer and bandaged from a fall on slippery pavement, Pinter seemed a vulnerable old man when he emerged from his London home to speak about the Nobel Award.

Though he had been looking forward to giving a Nobel lecture — «the longest speech I will ever have made» — he first canceled plans to attend the awards, then announced he would skip the lecture as well on his doctor’s advice.

Pinter wrote 32 plays; one novel, «The Dwarfs,» in 1990; and put his hand to 22 screenplays, including «The Quiller Memorandum» (1965) and «The French Lieutenant’s Woman» (1980). He admitted, and said he deeply regretted, voting for Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and Tony Blair in 1997.

Pinter fulminated against what he saw as the overweening arrogance of American power, and belittled Blair as seeming like a «deluded idiot» in support of Bush’s war in Iraq.

In his Nobel lecture, Pinter accused the United States of supporting «every right-wing military dictatorship in the world» after World War II.

«The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them,» he said.

The United States, he added, «also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain.»

Most prolific between 1957 and 1965, Pinter relished the juxtaposition of brutality and the banal and turned the conversational pause into an emotional minefield.

His characters’ internal fears and longings, their guilt and difficult sexual drives are set against the neat lives they have constructed in order to try to survive.

Usually enclosed in one room, they organize their lives as a sort of grim game and their actions often contradict their words. Gradually, the layers are peeled back to reveal the characters’ nakedness.

The protection promised by the room usually disappears and the language begins to disintegrate.

Pinter once said of language: «The speech we hear is an indication of that which we don’t hear. It is a necessary avoidance, a violent, sly, and anguished or mocking smoke screen which keeps the other in its true place. When true silence falls we are left with echo but are nearer nakedness. One way of looking at speech is to say that it is a constant stratagem to cover nakedness.»

Pinter’s influence was felt in the United States in the plays of Sam Shepard and David Mamet and throughout British literature.

«With his earliest work, he stood alone in British theater up against the bewilderment and incomprehension of critics, the audience and writers too,» British playwright Tom Stoppard said when the Nobel Prize was announced.

«Not only has Harold Pinter written some of the outstanding plays of his time, he has also blown fresh air into the musty attic of conventional English literature, by insisting that everything he does has a public and political dimension,» added British playwright David Hare, who also writes politically charged dramas.

The working-class milieu of plays like «The Birthday Party» and «The Homecoming» reflected Pinter’s early life as the son of a Jewish tailor from London’s East End. He began his career in the provinces as an actor.

In his first major play, «The Birthday Party» (1958), intruders enter the retreat of Stanley, a young man who is hiding from childhood guilt. He becomes violent, telling them, «You stink of sin, you contaminate womankind.»

And in «The Caretaker,» a manipulative old man threatens the fragile relationship of two brothers while «The Homecoming» explores the hidden rage and confused sexuality of an all-male household by inserting a woman.

In «Silence and Landscape,» Pinter moved from exploring the dark underbelly of human life to showing the simultaneous levels of fantasy and reality that equally occupy the individual.

In the 1980s, Pinter’s only stage plays were one-acts: «A Kind of Alaska» (1982), «One for the Road» (1984) and the 20-minute «Mountain Language» (1988).

During the late 1980s, his work became more overtly political; he said he had a responsibility to pursue his role as «a citizen of the world in which I live, (and) insist upon taking responsibility.»

In March 2005, Pinter announced his retirement as a playwright to concentrate on politics. But he created a radio play, «Voices,» that was broadcast on BBC radio to mark his 75th birthday.

«I have written 29 plays and I think that’s really enough,» Pinter said . «I think the world has had enough of my plays.»

Pinter had a son, Daniel, from his marriage to actress Vivien Merchant, which ended in divorce in 1980. That year he married the writer Fraser.

«It was a privilege to live with him for over 33 years. He will never be forgotten,» Fraser said.

British dramatist leaves a gap far greater than all of his famous pauses


By Alastair Macaulay
© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2008, Published: December 27 2008 02:00 | Last updated: December 27 2008 02:00

The Nobel laureate Harold Pinter, one of the greatest British playwrights of his generation, died on Christmas eve, aged 78, after a long battle with cancer.

The death of Pinter leaves a gap far larger than all his famous pauses put together. For more than 40 years, he was Britain’s foremost dramatist: he caught the double wave created by the 1955 English-language premiere of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and the 1956 premiere of John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger and turned it into a new high-concentrate idiom… [continued]

Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter dies at 78

** FILE ** This is a Jan. 17, 2007, file photoof Nobel-winning British playwright Harold Pinter, wearing the French Legion d'honneur that he was awarded by French Prime Minster Dominique de Villepin, at the French Embassy in London. Pinter's wife the writer Lady Antonia Fraser said Thursday Dec. 25, 2008 that Pinter has died (AP Photo/Carl de Souza, Pool)

** FILE ** This is a Jan. 17, 2007, file photoof Nobel-winning British playwright Harold Pinter, wearing the French Legion …

Paisley Dodds ASSOCIATED PRESS, ©2008 The Washington Times, Friday, December 26, 2008

LONDON (AP) — Harold Pinter, praised as the most influential British playwright of his generation and a longtime voice of political protest, has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 78. Pinter, whose distinctive contribution to the stage was recognized with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, died on Wednesday, according to his second wife, Lady Antonia Fraser. «Pinter restored theater to its basic elements: an enclosed space and unpredictable dialogue, where people are at the mercy of each other and pretense crumbles,» the Nobel Academy said when it announced Pinter’s award. «With a minimum of plot, drama emerges from the power struggle and hide-and-seek of interlocution.»

The Nobel Prize gave Pinter a global platform which he seized enthusiastically to denounce U.S. President George W. Bush and then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair. «The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law,» Pinter said in his Nobel lecture, which he recorded rather than traveling to Stockholm. «How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand?» he asked, in a hoarse voice.

Weakened by cancer and bandaged from a fall on a slippery pavement, Pinter seemed a vulnerable old man when he emerged from his London home to speak about the Nobel Award. Though he had been looking forward to giving a Nobel lecture — «the longest speech I will ever have made» — he first canceled plans to attend the awards, then announced he would skip the lecture as well on his doctor’s advice. Pinter wrote 32 plays; one novel, «The Dwarfs,» in 1990; and put his hand to 22 screenplays including «The Quiller Memorandum» (1965) and «The French Lieutenant’s Woman» (1980). He admitted, and said he deeply regretted, voting for Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and Tony Blair in 1997. Pinter fulminated against what he saw as the overweening arrogance of American power, and belittled Blair as seeming like a «deluded idiot» in support of Bush’s war in Iraq.

Appreciation: The playwright who gave us ‘Pinteresque’

BigpinterHarold Pinter, who died Wednesday after a long bout with cancer, will go down as the most important modern English-language playwright after Samuel Beckett. He wouldn’t have minded coming in second. Plus he gave the world a sharper adjective — Pinteresque.

Beckett was an idol and mentor to Pinter, as well as a friend. Pinter took inspiration from the Irish writer’s profound concentration of language and metaphor, breadth of literary and philosophical knowledge, Proustian appreciation of the subjectivity of memory, recognition of the power struggles in human relations and harrowing comedy in the face of the 20th century’s apocalyptic worst.

In effect, Pinter brought Beckett’s game indoors, transferring it from barren heaths, garbage cans and mounds of earth to recognizable domestic English settings. Shabby in  Pinter’s early years, these rooms became posher as he began to reap the fruits of his success in both theater and film, where he was a noted screenwriter (enjoying an especially productive relationship with Joseph Losey), a pungent actor and an occasional director.

But Pinter was always his own man. And to understand him, one has to recognize the specifics of his background, as a Jewish kid from the East End of London whose adolescence was darkened by the Second World War and as an actor who gleaned as much about playwriting from working as a rep player alongside such British acting legends as Donald Wolfit as he did from studying Beckett.

Where Pinter grew up, violence and anti-Semitic hatred weren’t abstract matters. After the war, in his economically debilitated, politically explosive part of town, he learned to avoid physical confrontations — a danger, he acknowledged, for anyone who “remotely looked like a Jew” — by talking to thugs hanging out outside the club he used to frequent: “Are you all right?” “Yes, I’m all right.” “Well, that’s all right then, isn’t it?”

Language, which is so often a weapon in his plays, is also a reliable shield, “a constant stratagem to cover nakedness,” as the playwright himself once described it. David Hare was right to pay Pinter the ultimate Auden compliment of having “cleaned the gutters of the English language, so that it ever afterwards flowed more easily and more cleanly.” But Pinter’s poetic density, shot through with those signature gaping silences, wasn’t deployed for its own sake.

The assaultive threat hovering over his characters is what shapes their jagged conversation. In Pinter’s view, Kafka was one of the few writers who had got it right: The nightmarish knock on the door isn’t just a paranoid delusion. The urge to dominate is fundamental to our territorial natures. We know we’re not safe, and our canine vigilance readies us to attack and defend.

Pinter’s rough-and-tumble roots also informed his political perspective, which became more explicit in his plays in the 1980s and could admittedly become rather truculent in his speeches and editorials, most notably in his 2005 Nobel lecture, “Art, Truth & Politics,” in which he took the opportunity to rail against what he saw as the long-standing brutality of American foreign policy.

But for all his vehemence and posturing, Pinter was too gifted with words and too astute a critic to be dismissed as an ideological crank. He was also too deft a psychologist, understanding what the British psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott meant when he wrote that “being weak is as aggressive as the attack of the strong on the weak” and that the repressive denial of personal aggressiveness is perhaps even more dangerous than ranting and raving. (All that stiff-upper-lip business can be murderous.)

Pinter’s early career as an actor helped him theatricalize these insights. In Michael Billington’s admiring biography, Pinter reveals what he learned working beside Wolfit, a barnstormer who could generate the most extraordinary “savagery and power” by the simple turning of his cloak. Wolfit provided Pinter with a master class in dramatic timing, demonstrating the potency of silence and the way delay can turn suspense into something wonderfully excruciating.

All of this permeated his playwriting, which invested everyday objects with an uncanny sense of Hitchcockian menace. When we talk about something being Pinteresque, we’re referring to that state of anxiety in which seemingly harmless encounters can provoke the most fearfully ambiguous threats. A glass of water may sometimes be just a glass of water, but in “The Homecoming,” one of modern drama’s signal achievements, it becomes a line in the sand between Ruth and Lenny, seductively antagonistic in-laws who are sussing each other out.

Pinter’s emergence in 1958 with “The Birthday Party,” followed shortly by “The Caretaker,” was both thrilling and baffling. The new theatrical vocabulary had to be decoded. Characters didn’t arrive with their birth certificates and back stories in a convenient carrying case; the dialogue ran down subterranean pathways; and the plots typically involved an outsider’s incursion into the delicate equilibrium of a private space. Also, nothing could be trusted — not language, not memory and certainly not reality, which always entails a war of personal fictions.

Pinter later applied these innovations to his political plays, revealing totalitarian regimes as deranged dances between oppressors, who find endless ways of reaffirming the banality of evil, and the oppressed, who use all their wiles to protect themselves from the unavoidable blows. These dramas might not have the same staying power. But in 2001, Pinter himself starred in “One for the Road” in New York and demonstrated just how smoothly the domestic dynamics of his earlier works could fold into the more geopolitical concerns of his later ones.

The plays are ultimately gifts to actors who can master the verbal precision while maintaining an aura of unforced mystery. These are the qualities that director Peter Hall found in Vivien Merchant, Pinter’s first wife, who originated the role of Ruth in “The Homecoming” in 1965. And I’ve come upon them a few times myself — with Penelope Wilton in “A Kind of Alaska,” Lindsay Duncan in “Ashes to Ashes” and Michael Gambon in “The Caretaker.”

Experience Pinter’s sorcery in such expert hands and you’re hooked for life.

— Charles McNulty

Photo: Harold Pinter in 2004. Credit: Bruno Vincent / Getty Images

Ένα αλφαβητάρι για το παιδικό θέατρο


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Τα σχολεία έκλεισαν κι οι διαδηλώσεις των πιτσιρικάδων για την ώρα αραίωσαν. Τι θα κάνει χριστουγεννιάτικα το μικρό, όλο τηλεόραση θα βλέπει; Πάρτε το απ’ το χέρι και κάντε μια βόλτα στη θεατρική πιάτσα. Φέτος είναι πλούσια και δε θα χάσετε, ούτε το πιτσιρίκι ούτε κι εσείς. Για να βοηθηθείτε, κάναμε κι εμείς μια… ελαφροπάτητη περιήγηση στις παιδικές σκηνές, με τη βοήθεια των γραμμάτων της αλφαβήτας.

Α, όπως… Άντερσεν και μάλιστα σε μορφή μιούζικαλ. Ο Μολυβένιος στρατιώτης, η κλασική ιστορία του Δανού παραμυθά, στη σκηνοθεσία του Δημήτρη Δεγαΐτη, αποτελεί μία από τις μεγάλες επιτυχίες της φετινής σεζόν, όμως η λίστα αναμονής στα ταμεία του Θεάτρου Τέχνης της οδού Φρυνίχου (210.3222.464) δεν πρέπει να σας αποθαρρύνει.

Β, όπως… Βιζυηνός. Ένα εκπαιδευτικό πρόγραμμα του ΚΘΒΕ με Εικόνες από τον Βιζυηνό, σε σκηνοθεσία Νίκου Βουδούρη, που απευθύνεται σε λίγο μεγαλύτερα παιδιά. Η πρωτοτυπία του έγκειται στο ότι είναι το θέατρο που πάει στα σχολεία, κι όχι το ανάποδο. Κρατήστε την ιδέα και μόλις ανοίξουν ξανά τα γυμνάσια τηλεφωνήστε στο 2310-242.629.

Γ, όπως… Γελαστό δάσος. Εκεί θα περιμένει τους μικρούς του φίλους ο Πουλτσινέλα, η ξύλινη μαριονέτα που κόβει τα σκοινιά της και αποφασίζει να ζήσει ελεύθερη, έχοντας ετοιμάσει για τα Χριστούγεννα λιχουδιές και παιχνίδια, τραγούδια και χορό (βασισμένα στο σύστημα Ορφ), υπό την καθοδήγηση του Θωμά Κινδύνη στο θέατρο «Μορφές Έκφρασης» στα Κ. Πετράλωνα (210-34.64.002).

Δ, όπως… Δράκος, ήτοι Ο Μεγαλέξανδρος και ο καταραμένος δράκος, η όμορφη παράσταση του Δήμου Αβδελιώδη με τα ΔΗΠΕΘΕ Β. Αιγαίου και Πάτρας, κινηματογράφος, θέατρο σκιών και λαϊκή όπερα σε συσκευασία Gesamtkunstwerk. Απολαυστικό ποιητικό θέαμα για μεγαλύτερα και πολύ μεγαλύτερα παιδιά, στο θέατρο Βεάκη (210-52.23.522)

Ε, όπως… Ερωτευμένος πειρατής: Με το καράβι του δεμένο στην παραλία του Θερμαϊκού, μπροστά από το Βασιλικό Θέατρο (2310-288.000), η παράσταση του Θέμη Μουμουλίδη καλεί τους μικρούς θεατές σε ένα ταξίδι (με το πειρατικό, φυσικά) σε χώρες άλλοτε πραγματικές κι άλλοτε φανταστικές, όπου θα αναζητήσουν μαζί με τον ερωτοχτυπημένο πειρατή την εκλεκτή της καρδιάς του Ιζόλδη.

Ζ, όπως… Ζει! Ποιος; Μα, ο Καραγκιόζης, φυσικά! Κι αυτό χάρη στην τέχνη του Άθωνα Δανέλλη (και άλλων, βέβαια, νέων καραγκιοζοπαικτών) που για δεύτερη χρονιά πάει τους λιλιπούτειους θεατές της Παιδικής Σκηνής του Εθνικού (Rex, 210- 33.01.881) κάθε Σάββατο «Εκδρομές», έχοντας για ιπτάμενο χαλί τον μπερντέ και τις φιγούρες του.

Η, όπως… Ημέρας Θέατρο και όχι αυγά… Διότι αυτά τα φυλάνε Οι σωματοφύλακες της κατσαρόλας, μην τυχόν και τα μολύνουν με φυτοφάρμακα και άλλα χημικά οι καταχθόνιοι οικοπεδοφάγοι Χημικοχωρίτες. Μετά από περιπέτειες, οι… βιοκαλλιεργητές Μεγαλομπουκίτες θα θριαμβεύσουν, διότι έχουν μέσον τη Λένα Τερκεσίδου που το έγραψε και την Ανδρομάχη Μοντζολή που το σκηνοθέτησε (210-69.29.090).

Θ, όπως… Θαύματα. Στη Χώρα των οποίων πέφτει, πέφτει, πέφτει (αν θυμάστε…) η Αλίκη, για να καταλήξει στην Παιδική Σκηνή του Εθνικού και στα χέρια του Βασίλη Μαυρογεωργίου, που αναπλάθει με επιτυχία το κλασικό έργο του Λιούις Κάρολ, διαμορφώνοντας ένα αλλόκοτο σύμπαν όπου οι Αλίκες είναι… τρεις και ψάχνουν εναγωνίως η μία την άλλη.

Ι, όπως… Ιστορία, κλασική και συγκινητική (πιο κλασική δεν γίνεται), Το κοριτσάκι με τα σπίρτα του Χ. Κ. Άντερσεν, θα καίει ένα-ένα τα σπίρτα που κανείς δεν ήθελε να αγοράσει μέχρι τις αρχές Ιανουαρίου από τη σκηνή του θεάτρου «Θυμέλη» (210-86.57.677), σε σκηνοθεσία της Έλλης Βοζικιάδου.

Κ, όπως… Κατσικούλα. Η Κούλα η κατσικούλα και το  κλεμμένο τραγούδι, δηλαδή ένα διδακτικό παραμύθι του Ευγένιου Τριβιζά, που άπτεται θεμάτων… πνευματικής ιδιοκτησίας (Θέατρο Ήβη, 210-32.15.127). Για να μάθει το βλαστάρι σας να μην ξημεροβραδιάζεται στο Ίντερνετ κατεβάζοντας μουσική και ταινίες. Πώς το λένε; Η πειρατεία σκοτώνει την τέχνη;

Λ, όπως… Λουκουμάδες: Μέσα στους οποίους, στο θέατρο Παραμυθιάς (ή Παραμυθίας, αν προτιμάτε) στον Κεραμικό (210-70.12.122), κρύβονται οι σκοτεινοί συνωμότες Σταμάτης Κραουνάκης και Σπείρα Σπείρα, αλλά και Γιώργος Σεφέρης, τα ποιήματα του οποίου για παιδιά αποτελούν τη ραχοκοκαλιά της μουσικοχορευτικής περιπέτειας Η συνωμοσία των λουκουμάδων.

Μ, όπως… Μπητλς: Με τους οποίους ταξιδεύει η Μαίρη Πόππινς, σε ένα ατέλειωτο φλας μπακ στη δεκαετία του ’60 ή, τέλος πάντων, σε αυτήν του ’70. Η μαγική νταντά (άλλως πώς Μαριάννα Τόλη) θα μεταμορφωθεί σε σύγχρονη ροκ ηρωίδα επί σκηνής του θεάτρου Ιλίσια-Ντενίση (210-72.10.045), δίνοντας μία ποπ σκηνική εκδοχή της μουσικής των διάσημων «Σκαθαριών».

Ν, όπως… Νοτρ νταμ, τουτέστιν Παναγία των Παρισίων και μάλιστα στο Λουτράκι, από την Παιδική Επαγγελματική Σκηνή του Πνευματικού Κέντρου του Δήμου. Το κλασικό έργο του Β. Ουγκώ, από έναν «εκτός των τειχών» θίασο. Αν είστε ή βρεθείτε εκεί, αξίζει τον κόπο. Στο αμφιθέατρο του Αλεξάνδρειου Συνεδριακού Κέντρου.

Ξ, όπως… Ξακουστός: Κι ο Γαργαληστής ο φοβερός κι ο δημιουργός του Δημήτρης Μπασλάμ. Που με τις κούκλες του κλέβει λίγο από το γέλιο που περισσεύει στα παιδιά για να το δώσει σ’ εκείνα που δεν έχουν. Παραμονεύει στο Θέατρο επί Κολωνώ (210-51.38.067) κάθε Κυριακή μεσημέρι. Αν σας επιτεθεί, μη φοβηθείτε. Δώστε του λίγο από το γέλιο που σας χαρίζει…

Ο, όπως… Όμηρος. Ολόκληρο το έργο του οποίου μπορείτε να παρακολουθήσετε σε δύο παραστάσεις: Την κάπως χιουμοριστική Ιλιάδα στο Περοκέ (210-52.40.040), από την Κέλλυ Σταμουλάκη, με μουσική του Λ. Μαχαιρίτσα, τη δε Οδύσσεια («Το παραμύθι των παραμυθιών») από την Κάρμεν Ρουγγέρη στο «Θέατρον» του Πολιτιστικού Κέντρου Ελληνικός Κόσμος (212-25.40.313). Δεν χρειάζεται να διαλέξετε, δείτε και τις δύο!

Π, όπως… Παραμυθ…issimo! Δηλαδή λαϊκά ιταλικά παραμύθια, όπως τα «διάβασε» ο Ίταλο Καλβίνο, τον οποίο διάβασαν με τη σειρά τους η Ξένια Καλογεροπούλου και ο Θωμάς Μοσχόπουλος. Φαντασμαγορία με πριγκίπισσες και πρίγκιπες, γενναίους ιππότες και παράξενους μάγους, βασίλισσες που φτιάχνουν πίτσες και όλα αυτά με τη σφραγίδα της Μικρής Πόρτας (210-77.11.333)

Ρ, όπως… Ρομαντικοί όσοι παλεύουν να βρουν Της φύσης μυστικό; Όχι δα! Με ηθοποιούς και κινούμενα σχέδια επί σκηνής του θεάτρου Αργώ (210-52.01.684), μουσική, χορό και τραγούδι, οι ήρωες θα κατορθώσουν στο τέλος (παιδικό είναι το έργο…) να αποκαταστήσουν τη χειμωνιάτικη οικολογική ισορροπία στη φύση.

Σ, όπως… Σίτος Σιταράκις αυτός ο Μεγάλος μικρός, που γεννήθηκε (από τον Δημήτρη Αδάμη) σ’ ένα καρβέλι ψωμί και λατρεύει τον Μπαχ και τον Βαν Γκογκ, θα καταφέρει στο γεμάτο περιπέτειες ταξίδι του να αποδείξει πως, παρά τις ιδιαιτερότητές του, αυτός μπορεί! Γιατί, δεν το είπαμε: Ο ήρωας της παράστασης του θεάτρου Αθηνών (210-33.12.343) έχει ύψος μόλις… 8 εκατοστά!

Τ, όπως… Τρένο στο Ρουφ. Όπου Έβδομος σταθμός είναι Το μυστικό του πειρατή Μπελαφούσκ. Ένα ταξίδι (σιδηροδρομικό αυτή τη φορά) του Ευγένιου Τριβιζά στην ιδέα της ελευθερίας της τέχνης, με εκδοχή και για ενηλίκους στο ίδιο θεατρικό βαγόνι (210-5298922).

Υ, Φ, Ψ, Ω: Καλά, σκραμπλ δεν έχετε παίξει ποτέ; Δεν έχετε δει πόσους βαθμούς κερδίζουν αυτά τα γράμματα λόγω σπανιότητος; Μόνο για το Χ μπόρεσα να βρω κάτι:

Χ, όπως… «Χριστούγεννα Καλά!»…

Σπύρος ΚΑΚΟΥΡΙΩΤΗΣ, Η Αυγή, 25/12/2008