Sixty years from the first time it was performed at the London Lyric Opera House, Harold Pinter’s “The Birthday Party” is once again on stage in England’s capital at the Harold Pinter Theatre from January 9th to April 14th.
Following acclaimed performances of “Betrayal” and “Old Times” – superbly played by Kristin Scott Thomas – renowned director Ian Rickson directs an exceptional cast: Toby Jones, Zoë Wanamaker, Stephen Mangan and Pearl Mackie (from the well-known series Doctor Who) are amongst the protagonists of this celebrated and intriguing play which the Nobel laureate for literature wrote when he was not yet thirty.
The plot centres around Stanley Webber – a Pinteresque character par excellence – a failed pianist with a turbulent past who lives in a small boarding house by the sea run by a couple, Petey and Meg Boles. Their daily routine is interrupted by the arrival of two equivocal guests, Goldberg and McCann, who organize a birthday party for Stanley (who denies it is his birthday). The following morning they take Stanley away to an unknown fate.
The play, which became one of Pinter’s most performed works – and which premiered in Italy in 1973 where Stanley was played by Alessandro Quasimodo, son of the literature Nobel laureate Salvatore Quasimodo – was initially reviewed negatively by critics. It was only the eminent Harold Hobson of the Sunday Times who had good words and wrote that he was willing to put his reputation as a critic at stake and affirm that “ Mr. Pinter possesses the most original, disturbing and arresting talent in theatrical London”.
Ian Rickson, who met Harold Pinter when he was artistic director at the Royal Court Theatre, stated that: “Pinter was my mentor and the staging of “The Birthday Party” is “particularly thrilling because, like any first major play, it has the intense DNA of a writer’s inner life; their yearnings, their obsessions, their longings. There’s something about The Birthday Party in particular that’s so raw and committed – it has this kind of anarchic, punk spirit”.