Rehearsal for No Man's Land

Rehearsal for No Man's Land

Harold Pinter's No Man's Land is one of his masterpieces. This photograph shows Peter Hall (kneeling) directing John Gielgud (centre) and Ralph Richardson (left) in rehearsal for the 1975 premiere by the National Theatre Company at the Old Vic.

According to Guardian critic Michael Billington the play 'is about precisely what its title suggests: the sense of being caught in some mysterious limbo between life and death, between a world of brute reality and one of fluid uncertainty'. A Hampstead writer has brought home a shabby stranger for the evening, to the resentment of his assistant and manservant. It turns out that the stranger is linked to the writer - he once had an affair with his wife. Pinter's economical dialogue combines a powerful sense of menace with a comic mismatch of delicate language: the burly, foul-mouthed manservant is concerned mainly with his 'world of silk, of organdie, of flower arrangements and eighteenth century cookbooks'. There is also the trademark sparse 'Pinteresque' poetry: 'I have known this before. The door unlocked. The entrance of a stranger. The offer of alms. The shark in the harbour'.