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A Bluffers' Guide to: Harold Pinter

Our weekly guide for the theatrically illiterate talks you through the master of the pause
Cherwell Stage on Friday 27th April 2012
Photograph: SXC

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.

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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.