Harold Pinter



  • (Harold Da Pinta; 1930 - 2008) British dramatist,director, and actor, regarded as one of the most original writersof the post-war period. Like Beckett, with whom he is oftencompared, Pinter resolutely refused to analyse his works, althoughhe did once rather cryptically suggest that his plays were about the"weasel under the cocktail cabinet."

    Born in the East End of London, Pinter briefly attended RADAand the Central School of Speech and Drama before joining Sir DonaldWolfit's touring company as an actor (using the name David Baron).Curiously, Pinter appeared alongside two other as yet undiscoveredplaywrights, Ronald Harwood and Alan Ayckbourn.

    Pinter's first play, the one-act The Room, was stagedat Bristol University in 1957; his first full-length play, TheBirthday Party appeared the following year, much to the bewildermentof both audiences and critics. The Dumb Waiter (1960) receivedits premiere in Hamburg, being followed later in the year by TheCaretaker, which enjoyed successful productions in both Londonand New York, establishing Pinter as a major writer for the theater.Although The Caretaker has only three characters and very littlein the way of plot, it effectively established a new theatrical stylein which tension, suspicion, and ambiguity combine to create a 'comedyof menace'. The adjective Pinteresque is now often used ofdialogue that resembles Pinter's in being oblique, repetitive, interspersedwith lengthy pauses (see Pinter pause), and loadedwith hidden meanings.

    Although The Homecoming (1965) was another archetypallyPinteresque work, subsequent plays, such as Old Times (1971),No Man's Land (1975), and Betrayal (1978) showed anew preoccupation with the subjective nature of time and memory. Duringthe 1980s Pinter spent much of his time writing for the cinema andcampaigning for left-wing political causes. The enigmatic Moonlight(1993), his first major play for 15 years, was followed by Ashesto Ashes in 1996 and Celebration in 2000. Pinter was awardedthe Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005 and used his acceptance speechto launch a typically belligerent attack on US foreign policy. In 2006 he madea much heralded return to the stage as the old writer in Beckett'sKrapp's Last Tape.

    Pinter's first wife, Vivien Merchant (1929 - 82), playedmany of his early female roles. After their divorce he married (1980) thehistorian Lady Antonia Fraser.