A Bluffers’ Guide to: Harold Pinter


Who, what, when and where? A 20th Century (1930 – 2008) English playwright who grew up in London. His writing career spanned over 40 years; from his first play The Room (no relation to the film) in 1957 to Celebration, in 2000.

What are the plays like? They’ve been described as ‘‘comedies of menace’’; often trapping unrealistic characters in naturalistic settings. They engage in dialogue but reveal more with their silences than with their words. Known for being original and disturbing – not so much the elephant in the room as “the weasel under the cocktail cabinet”, which Pinter more simply put as “what I write is what I write”.

So, is he any good? Depends what you’re into. He was good enough to receive the Nobel
Prize in Literature, the Légion d’honneur, and perhaps most importantly, his own adjective:
Pinteresque (which he himself despised). Mostly we remember him for the pauses, and the
infidelity. Particularly the pauses.

Tickle your fancy? Seek out these theatrical treasures:

The Birthday Party
The Hothouse
Mountain Language

Don’t know your Shaffer from your Shaw? Can’t tell your Marlowe from your Miller? Is the world of the stage all Greek to you? Fear no more – Cherwell Stage is here to offer a weekly guide for the theatrically illiterate so you can bluff your way through any thespian shindig, and finally learn how to ingratiate yourself to your theatre-going friends.