Mountain Language - Premiere

Programme Cover

First performed at the National Theatre, London, 20 October 1988

Miranda Richardson - Young Woman
Eileen Atkins - Elderly Woman
Michael Gambon - Sergeant
Julian Wadham - Officer
George Harris - Guard
Tony Haygarth - Prisoner
Alex Hardy - Hooded Man
Douglas McFerran - Second Guard

Directed by Harold Pinter
Designed by Michael Taylor

See Politics Turkey and The Kurds


"Running at just under 25 minutes, Harold Pinter's new play, Mountain Language, delivers a short sharp shock. Focussing on the brutalities of a society, which forbids a minority of its population to speak their own language, it is a play of few words, which add up to an eloquent indictment of the banning of any human utterance.

Miranda Richardson and
Michael Gambon

Milan Kundera has written that the final barbarity of totalitarian regime is that, by making its victims the butts of grim practical jokes, it even tires to deprive them of the tragic dignity which their sufferings merit. In a succession of short, jabbing scenes, Pinter's Pinter's play introduces us to such a world.
"You go out of your way to give them a helping hand and they fuck it up," is the plays grim, reductive punch line.
With the young woman, Pinter explores a different atrocity to language. Played with a fine, nervous imperiousness by Miranda Richardson, she can attempt to parry the soldiers' illogicalities, because shares their foul-mouthed idiom. But, after, she has been treated to the sight of the hooded, broken man - whom the soldiers try to pretend is not her husband - something in her snaps. Told of a man who comes in on Tuesdays and might be able to help her, she snarls, "Can I fuck him? If I fuck him will everything be alright?", clearly gaining physical release from her pretense of relishing in the four-letter words. You find yourself torn between admiration for the satiric defiance with which she spits the soldier's bad language back at them and the outrage that she has been reduced to soiling her mouth with it at all."

Paul Taylor
The Independent 21 October 1988

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