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A Brief Guide To: Harold Pinter

16 January 2018 by Emily Moulder
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In the last year or so, new audiences in London have had the pleasure of experiencing the work of Harold Pinter on the West End. No Man’s Land starred Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, and The Homecoming featured Gemma Chan and Gary Kemp, and now The Birthday Party comes to The Harold Pinter Theatre.

Stanley Webber (Toby Jones) is the only lodger at Meg (Zoë Wanamaker) and Petey Boles’ (Peter Wight) sleepy coastal boarding house. Charming strangers Goldberg (Stephen Mangan) and McCann (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) arrive and disrupt the tedious lives of the inhabitants and their friend Lulu (Pearl Mackie). Their ho-hum existence is put in danger when a seemingly innocent birthday party turns into a disturbing nightmare.

If you’ve caught previous productions of his work and want to know a little more about him, check out the TodayTix Brief Guide To: Harold Pinter.

Playwright Harold Pinter (1930 - ) relaxing in his study. (Photo by Express Newspapers/Getty Images)
Playwright Harold Pinter (1930 – ) relaxing in his study. (Photo by Express Newspapers/Getty Images)

Lived: 10 October 1930 – 24 December 2008. Raised in Hackney, lived in West London.

Training: RADA and then Central School of Speech and Drama.

Occupation: Actor, Director and Writer for stage and screen

Notable works:

The Caretaker (play and screen adaptation)

Old Times

No Man’s Land

The Homecoming

The Birthday Party


The Go-Between (screen adaptation)

The French Lieutenant’s Woman (screen adaptation)

Personal life: 

Harold Pinter’s life was as dramatic as his plays were. A turbulent romantic life saw him married twice, first to Vivien Merchant (1956–1980; divorced), then to Lady Antonia Fraser (1980–2008; his death). He had one son with Vivien, Daniel Brand, to whom he was estranged due to their divorce and Harold’s subsequent re-marriage to Antonia.

In his leisure time, Harold was a keen fan of cricket but much of his time was taken up by his political writing. A vocal political activist, he resisted being in the army during the Cold War, registering as a conscientious objector. He traveled around the world, documenting and investigating issues of war crimes and human rights, continuing to write on political struggles well into the latter part of his life.

He was diagnosed with cancer twice, the first was oesophageal and finally cancer of the liver was the cause of his death. Among the many, many tributes to Harold across his lifetime and beyond, the owners of what was once the Comedy Theatre on Panton Street, London, decided to change the name of the theatre in his honour in 2011. It is now the same theatre where you can see his play, The Birthday Party.

Awards and nominations:

Harold Pinter received a multitude of awards throughout his career, here are just a few of the international prizes, titles and honours he earned.

  • Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), 1966
  • Shakespeare Prize (Hamburg), 1970
  • European Prize for Literature (Vienna), 1973
  • Order of Merit (Chile), 1992
  • America Award, 1995
  • The David Cohen Prize, 1995
  • Laurence Olivier Special Award, 1996
  • Molière d’honneur, Paris, 1997
  • BAFTA Fellowship, 1997
  • Companion of Literature, RSL, 1998
  • The Critics’ Circle Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts, 2000
  • Evening Standard Awards, 50th Anniversary – Special Award, 2004
  • Wilfred Owen Poetry Prize, 2005
  • Franz Kafka Prize, 2005
  • Nobel Prize in Literature, 2005
  • St. George Plaque of the City of Kragujevac, 2006
  • Legion d’honneur, France, 2007

He also received honorary degrees from 20 universities!

Harold Pinter Quotes:

“I tend to think that cricket is the greatest thing that God ever created on earth – certainly greater than sex, although sex isn’t too bad either.”

“I think it is the responsibility of a citizen of any country to say what he thinks.”

“There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.”

“I ought not to speak about the dead because the dead are all over the place.”

“I don’t intend to simply go away and write my plays and be a good boy. I intend to remain an independent and political intelligence in my own right.”

Book your tickets to Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party, or unlock exclusive £25 Rush tickets and be ready to buy at 10AM on the day of the performance!

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