Thurs 28th February - Sat 1st March & Thurs 6th March - Sat 8th March 1980
Directed by Tim Mahoney
HAROLD PINTER - "one of the most important lines I've ever written. As Stanley is taken away, Petey says, 'Stan, don't let them tell you what to do.' I've lived that line all my damn life. Never more than now." ... "It's the destruction of an individual, the independent voice of an individual. I believe that is precisely what the United States is doing to Nicaragua. It's a horrifying act. If you see child abuse, you recognise it and you're horrified. If you do it yourself, you apparently don't know what you're doing." 1988.
'The Birthday Party 'is Pinter's first full-length play and one of his best-known and most-frequently performed plays. After its hostile London reception in 1958 almost ended Pinter's playwriting career, it went on to be considered a classic. The plot centres around a small birthday celebration for Stanley Webber, an erstwhile piano player in his 30s, who lives in a rundown boarding house. The boarding house is run by Meg and Petey Boles who are holding the party for him. Two sinister strangers, Goldberg and McCann, arrive and appear to have come looking for him. Between them, they turn Stanley's apparently innocuous birthday party into a nightmare.
Pinter began writing the work after acting in a theatrical tour, during which, in Eastbourne, he had lived in "filthy insane digs." There he became acquainted with "a great bulging scrag of a woman" and a man who stayed in the seedy place. The B&B became the model for the rundown boarding house of the play and the woman and her tenant the models, respectively, for the characters of Meg Boles and Stanley Webber.
In an earlier work, 'The Room', a one-act play, Pinter had worked on themes and motifs that he would carry over into 'The Birthday Party' and some of his succeeding plays. Among these themes are the failure of language to serve as an adequate tool of communication, the use of place as a sanctum that is violated by menacing intruders, and the surrealistic confusions that obscure or distort fact.
This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.
|Stage Manager||Brian Healy|
|Interval Music||Tony Gutteridge|
|Set Construction||Ed Sawyer|
Harold Pinter set 'The Birthday Party' in a run-down seaside boarding house. Petey, Stan, Meg and Lulu share a kind of happiness which Goldberg and McCann destroy. The menace of Goldberg and McCann is tangible but unexplained; it is the eruption of an arbitrary violence into an ordinary life.
Singing, drinking and dancing - the highlight of a birthday party. Meg, landlady of a seaside boarding house, dances around the shabby dining room. Lulu, a glossily dressed teenager, claps and laughs. Yet sitting motionless and stern in the middle is the birthday boy Stanley Webber, leaning on the table staring without his glasses into a hazy void. This is 'The Birthday Party' by Harold Pinter, performed by Havant's Bench Theatre. All seems well with Stanley (Jim Charlton) who has lodged with doting Meg for a year. He is quiet, lazy and out of work. Then the ominous Goldberg and McCann arrive at the resort - and plan to celebrate Stanley's birthday whether he likes it or not.
This latest Bench production, which continues tonight and tomorrow and on March 6,7 and 8, is so tightly and convincingly acted it is difficult to single out top performances. But certainly, David Penrose and Ray Osborne fulfil the Pinter promise of mystery and menace in everyday situations. Their quick-firing 'interrogation' of Stanley is a masterpiece. Janet Simpson as Meg and Tony Czapp as Petey provide an amusing backdrop to the suspense. It is a challenging, modern play leaving questions as well as answers, and acted by a steadily improving local group, certainly worth 75p admission. Performances begin at 7.30 p.m. at Havant Arts Centre.
The News, 29th February 1980