Sketches (2002)
Royal National Theatre, London
 
Programme

Directed by Gari Jones
Set Consultant - Eileen Diss
Costume Consultant - Dany Everett
Assisted by Kate Elliot
Lighting by Laurie Clayton
Sound by Christopher Shutt & Gary Giles

Pinter Sketches I
Fri 8 Feb 2002 6:00 pm Lyttelton

THATíS YOUR TROUBLE
Gary Shelford as A
Danny Dyer as B

THE BLACK AND WHITE
Susan Wooldridge as 1st Old Woman
Frances de la Tour as 2nd Old Woman

TESS
Penelope Wilton as Tess

TROUBLE IN THE WORKS
Corin Redgrave as Fibbs
Patrick Marber as Wills

PRESS CONFERENCE
Harold Pinter


Pinter Sketches II
Mon 11 Feb 2002 6:00 pm Lyttelton

LAST TO GO
Henry Woolf as Man
Andy de la Tour as Barman

SPECIAL OFFER
Samantha Robson as Secretary

THATíS ALL
Kika Markham as Mrs A
Linda Bassett as Mrs B

NIGHT
Douglas Hodge as Man
Catherine McCormack as Woman

PRESS CONFERENCE
Harold Pinter

 

The playwright's triple risk
PINTER SKETCHES - Royal National Theatre
Financial Times - 13th February 2002

Harold Pinter has a nerve. In his latest sketch, Press Conference, he plays the central figure, the minister for culture in a totalitarian state, a minister who was until recently head of the secret police and who answers questions about the state attitude to children ("We distrusted children if they were the children of subversives. We abducted them and brought them up properly. Or we killed them"), to women ("We raped the women. It was part of an educational process"), and critical dissent. It's horrifyingly funny, of course, but you can't miss the triple risk that Pinter is running. First, he himself is undergoing treatment for cancer, shows some of the physical signs of chemotherapy, but is battling on. Second, he makes his totalitarian state sound just enough like Britain to confuse some people. Third, his own role is also a kind of self-caricature, an urbanely smiling bully who specialises in black-voiced menace, the kind of role he has played dozens of times. This is the latest in a long line of sketches that stretches back to Pinter's earliest days as a playwright in the 1950s. One such is glorious: the stage premiere of Tess, a female monologue written in 2000 for, I'm told, Tatler magazine. Tess starts off like a Joyce Grenfell ex-debutante type - she chats away about Mummy and Daddy and growing up in the country. And then, without any apparent change of key, she gets more surreal, more dotty. Her parents, her life, the world all turn out to be crazy, but still the bright polished deb tones keep coming in a rapid flow. Penelope Wilton - no actor has a longer or more distinguished track record for playing Pinter heroines - plays her to perfection. Pinter wrote most of his sketches in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and each of these two National anthologies featured three different ones from 1959: a rich year. The National's casting was deluxe: Henry Woolf (Pinter's oldest friend, who recently performed Monologue at the National) in Last to Go with Andy de la Tour; Patrick Marber (the cleverest character playing of all) in Trouble in the Works with Corin Redgrave, Frances de la Tour, and Susan Woolridge in The Black and the White, and more. His 1969 Night is beautifully acted by Douglas Hodge and Catherine McCormack. He recalls that the first time he held her was on a bridge; he recalls holding her breasts in his hands. She recalls no bridge, she recalls a different place, she recalls how he took her hand and gently stroked it. Has anyone ever caught more finely the differences between male and female feelings about heterosexual love than Pinter? Here, their differences of memory become almost a tragic divide. These two live together in what they call love, and yet on the memories of their initial and most intimate moments there is this unchangeable discrepancy. This hairline crack could become an abyss - at times it seems very large, but they live with it calmly. Pinter, now in his 70s, can still seem the most modern playwright alive, but again and again he puts himself at the end of long traditions. He is, it often seems, the last modernist, the last classicist, and, in plays like Night, the last romantic.

Copyright: The Financial Times Limited 1995-2002
ALASTAIR MACAULAY

 
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