>I’m reading the new Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter at the moment. Just his greatest plays, The Birthday Party and the like. I felt I needed to catch up after reading too many Shakespeares in school and then little after.
Like Ibsen who I read last month, plays are often concise revelatory stories into modern life. For Ibsen, it was the hypocrisy of Victorian values, while Pinter focussed on effect the little things have on humans reaching breaking point.Pinter also had little time for critics, believing that a man’s art must stand up to himself first his audience second.
Below is the hilarious account he gave of the first night of his heralded play The Caretaker.
“It took me quite a while to grow used to the fact that critical and public response in the theatre follows a very erratic temperature chart. And the danger for a writer is when he becomes easy prey for the old bugs of apprehension and expectation in this connection. But I think Dusseldorf cleared the air for me. In Dusseldorf about two years ago I took, as is the Continental custom, a bow with a German cast of the Caretaker at the end of the play on the first night. I was at once booed violently by what must have been the finest collection of booers in the world. I thought they were using megaphones, but it was pure mouth. The cast was as dogged as the audience, however, and we took thirty-four curtain call, all to boos. By the thirty-fourth there were only two people left in the house, still booing. I was strangely warmed by all this, and now, whenever I sense a tremor of the old apprehension or expectation, I remember Dussledorf and am cured.”
I love the surreal, anarchic nature of the story, the steely determination of both groups of protagonists to win out over the other. It’s also a lesson to anyone who aspires to ignore criticism and try and try again.