IN the space of a few years, Mr. Harold Pinter has made a tremendous impact on the world of theatre. He has become the idol of Chelsea, Knightsbridge and Hampstead, and his services as a playwright are eagerly sought by such "with-it" people as film and television directors.
Despite this, Mr. Pinter is very, very good. He has brought an original mind to the theatre, a courageous able mind that has explored new theatrical ground whilst still retaining enough of the "conventions" to make his plays understandable (a point that some of his contemporaries have overlooked).
Understanding Mr. Pinter has not come easily, however. When his first play "fhr Birthday Party was staged in 1958 it was obvious that here was a playwright with exceptional talent, but somewhere there was a blockage, a failure to gct across to the audience just what it was he was trying to say.
Later we were to see The Caretaker in which Mr. Pinter was able to show evidence of having come to terms with himself—and as a result. communicate with his audience. With knowledge of his later work, it was interesting therefore to see again "The Birthday Party" revived last week by the Royal Shakespeare company at the Aldwych. Mr. Pinter has a very interesting thesis about plays. Ile believes that "the more acute the experience, the less articulate the expression". His writing. too, has been motivated by a sense of isolation born of the fact that he believes that "to enter into someone else's•life is too frightening". For these reasons he tends to stand ofl from his characters. eleatalajng them in light pencil rather than in indelible ink. You see them, you think you understand them, but always there is so much hidden. It is that way with the words they speak: they go through the motions of conversation but it is their speaking silence which says most.
In this first play Mr. Pinter stood off at too great a distance. If there is nothing thai is specific—and there was not in this play a single thing—then there is no good reason for an audience to sit there for two hours.
As Mr. Pinter has since learnt, only so much privacy can be allowed a character. The curtain cannot be completely drawn so as to exclude all light. Without light there is no life. And without life there is nothing to write about.