The second preview of ‘Pinter at the Pinter’ Part 1 went off with a bang at The Harold Pinter Theatre tonight, not something you might have expected from a playwright famous for his pregnant pauses. Pinter’s use of silence on the stage came to define the playwright over his career, considered genius by some, and frustrating or just pretentious by others. One thing this collection presented tonight is not, is quiet.
One thing this collection presented tonight is not, is quiet.
From loud mouthed politicians (one loud mouthed, American, orange and played with relish by John Calshaw), to guards shouting orders, to pain and anguish and pompoms, this collection is Pinter at his most politically as well as audibly vocal. Pinter’s shorter pieces are rarely performed and it is arresting to see such visceral images, from blood spurting in the unspoken scenes of torture in Mountain language, to the quiet moment watching a woman tenderly, sensually, pluck and discard the petals from a single red rose.
The stage shifts with ease from prison to living room to doorstep with an admirable slickness. The way the light strikes the steely grey slabs of set, sets the scene. It’s astonishing what can be created from these innocuous grey blocks.
Power, it’s many forms and our human abuse of it upon each other, takes centre stage, as we are confronted by troubles that clearly haven’t gone away and the types of unsavoury characters who just recast themselves at different points in human history. Pinter’s absurdism allows him to be a degree removed from reality, just a fraction in this case. These bleak pieces really could be any time, any place, anywhere and that’s what makes them so fascinating – and more than faintly terrifying. It is not a quiet or comfortable watch, but a disquieting one to mull over in a long and ponderous Pinter pause.
Pinter at The Pinter: 1 plays at The Harold Pinter Theatre 6th Sept – 20th Oct.