The Birthday Party

Definition

Theater

  • Harold Pinter's first full-length play; it openedin 1958 at the Arts Theatre, Cambridge, and transferred to the LyricTheatre, Hammersmith. With its enigmatic dialogue, unrevealed motives,and powerful suggestions of menace, the play is now considered oneof Pinter's best and most characteristic works. At the time, however,it was savaged by most of the London critics and earned only £260 from its short run at the Lyric. Pinter blamed the production, by Peter Wood. The Lyric staged a glittering 50th-anniverary revival inMay 2008.

    The story focuses on Stanley Webber (originally played byRichard Pearson) who is the only resident at the boarding house runby Meg and Petey. One day they are visited by two sinister strangers,Nat Goldberg and Seamus McCann, who tell Meg that it is Stanley'sbirthday. They present him with a toy drum which he beats wildly.Stanley, who fears the two men, tries to convince them that he issomeone else. Later that evening, they remove his glasses, harshlyquestion him, and make him participate in a game of blind man's buff.The next morning, the men take a confused Stanley away. Petey watchesthem go, and later tells Meg what a fantastic birthday party it hasbeen.

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