My favourite Pinter by Antony Sher, Hayley Squires and Paapa Essiedu

Stars of the West Ends Pinter at the Pinter season pick plays by the dramatist that changed the way they thought about theatre

Antony Sher

Antony Sher on The Caretaker

Antony Sher. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

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Its not his first play, but The Caretaker was the one where Pinter invented himself as an extraordinary dramatist. The impact was felt around the world and even reached me, a teenager in Cape Town. It transformed my way of thinking about drama and obsessed me.

His world was threatening yet funny; in his dialogue, cliches suddenly become dangerous little bombs. When I came to London to audition for drama school, I did one of Micks speeches from The Caretaker. Im not sure it was a good idea as I got turned down by the top schools.

The Caretaker has a fascinating setup: the old homeless man, the spivvy East End boy Mick and his older brother. Pinter weaves threads between these three completely unalike characters and creates drama out of an undramatic situation and comedy, too.

In the West End season, Im doing One for the Road which is about torture. Pinter wrote it out of extreme anger yet it has a strangely playful comic edge. I remember seeing him as Lenny in The Homecoming in Watford in 1969. You dont really expect playwrights to be the best people to perform in their own plays, but it was an extraordinary display of great Pinter acting.

Saying things that shouldnt be said Lia Williams and Steven Pacey in Celebration at the Almeida, London, in 2000. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

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Hayley Squires on Celebration

Hayley Squires. Photograph: Phil Fisk for the Observer

Celebration was the first Pinter play I worked on at drama school 10 years ago. Two couples are at an upscale restaurant loosely based on the Ivy. Theres an underlying sense that they come from working-class backgrounds and have risen up. At the table next to them is a younger couple who sit much more easily within this world but theyre struggling within their relationship. Theyre trying to cope with each others inadequacies in this repressed, quite violent way.

People talk about Pinters plays having this dangerous element, that nothing is ever as it seems and that his characters never really talk about what they think. Celebration kind of twists that. They all talk about things that they mean but that shouldnt be spoken about in these circumstances. Theyre talking about people theyve loved before or about having affairs. Youre sort of waiting for someone to batter someone, but it never happens. I write as well and Pinter planted in me this fascination about love and hate how one feeds the other and one doesnt exist without the other.

Pinters pauses have turned into this huge thing that weighs heavily on actors and directors. Often what he meant was its just a breath for the actor before going into a new line of thought or questioning. In his plays, the characters throw missiles at each other. Its a moment of breath before you throw your next missile.

A mix of danger and goofy comedy Jason Isaacs and Lee Evans in The Dumb Waiter at Trafalgar Studios, London, 2007. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

Paapa Essiedu on The Dumb Waiter

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Paapa Essiedu. Photograph: Suki Dhanda for the Observer

My first encounter with Pinters work was The Dumb Waiter. It was like nothing Id ever read before: that mix of the danger and the goofy vaudeville comedy. Its quite Beckettian: these two blokes sitting in a basement waiting for something to happen and talking about semantics and stuff like the best way to say, Put the kettle on. Eventually, it becomes clear that theyre hitmen waiting for a job.

When I was 17, I did The Dumb Waiter in the most amateur of amateur productions at my school. Fortunately, it was before video so its never seen the light of day. I did then see it performed a few years later at the Trafalgar Studios in London with Lee Evans and Jason Isaacs. They brought out the slapstick potential in the play as well as the menace. Now Lee has come out of retirement for our Pinter season.

Pinter had the ability to condense language. In his plays not a single syllable in a word, in a sentence, in a paragraph is superfluous. Its all necessary and contributes to create this pressure-cooker tension but it never or very rarely explodes. That tension is mesmeric. You cant take your eyes off it.

Pinter at the Pinter, a season of one-act plays, is at the Harold Pinter theatre, London, until 23 February.

Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

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