The Birthday Party

The Birthday Party

Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party was premiered at the Arts Theatre, Cambridge in 1958, and transferred subsequently to the Lyric Hammersmith. It was the 28 year old writer's first full length play, and was met with some confusion. The Times called it 'puzzling', the Illustrated London News 'bewildering'. But the Sunday Times critic Harold Hobson missed the opening night. He attended the Thursday matinee, in an audience of seven, including the playwright. He reacted very differently to the absurdist uncertainties of the play, writing that Pinter was 'the most original, disturbing, and arresting talent in theatrical London'. Sadly by the time his review came out, the Lyric had taken the play off. Hobson's insight was soon endorsed by the elevation of Pinter as one of the most highly regarded 20th century British playwrights. The unresolved questions and the sparse, pause-laden dialogue which are his signatures even spawned a new adjective: 'Pinteresque'.

This photograph is of Timothy West and Lisa Dulson in a 1999 production which toured and then played at the Piccadilly Theatre, London for a short season.