Axbridge Community Theatre are staging The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter in Axbridge Town Hall nightly at 7.30pm from Wednesday 29th March to Saturday 1st April 2023. To give some context to the playwright this is a brief profile of the man who became known for his pauses in dialogue and the genre of the ‘comedy of menace.’

Born in 1930 to Jewish parents in Hackney, Harold Pinter experienced life in London as an only child during the blitz, and early on developed an interest in poetry and drama. He attended Hackney Downs School where he enjoyed cricket before enrolling at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art but later moved to the Central School of Speech and Drama before working in repertory theatre.
In 1948 he was called up to do National Service and refused claiming to be a conscientious objector. Subject to a series of increasingly bureaucratic interviews he was eventually released from the military but fined – with the experience influencing his antagonism to authority. These early experiences were to become the hallmark of his plays: threatening, sinister, unexplained, menacing, black comedy and of course those famous pauses that came to be known as Pinteresque. Likened to Samuel Beckett – his contemporary – as pushing the theatre of the absurd with a misogynistic trait – a criticism raised not only by feminist dramatists this century.
Keen to pursue a career as an actor he worked for Donald Wolfit’s company in London but took odd jobs to earn a crust. Fortunately, he married a successful theatre actress in Vivien Merchant in 1956 who had a more stable income and they had a son but eventually splitting in 1980. In the 1960s his marriage to Vivien foundered when he had an affair with Joan Bakewell – which inspired his play Betrayal. His private life was the stuff of gossip columns when after the divorce he married biographer Lady Antonia Fraser.
Commissioned, he wrote The Room in 1957 for Bristol University’s new drama department – which got him noticed. The Birthday Party was one of his first plays and was first performed in 1958 to less than flattering reviews and had a very short run of just eight performances. But it was The Caretaker in 1960 that was a turning point for the actor, writer and director with further dramas including The Homecoming (1964) and the aforementioned Betrayal in 1978, both of which he wrote the screenplay for film versions.
Writing for the screen gave him a new career as he wrote the screen play for several movies including The Go-Between and The French Lieutenant’s Woman. He also directed and acted in radio, stage, television and film productions right through the 1970s to the new century to just before his death.
Pinter received numerous awards including the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005 marking him as one of Britain’s most successful dramatists of the 20th century. Harold Pinter died from cancer in 2008 bringing to an end a career that had spanned six decades.
Harry Mottram

Tickets are available on line at Axbridge Community Theatre ( Telephone Bookings can be made on 07764 232980 (Nigel Scott) Paper tickets are on sale at Axbridge Post Office and Pharmacy.

ACT are proud be producing The Birthday Party  by arrangement with Concord Theatricals Ltd. on behalf of Samuel French Ltd.

The evening will have a licensed bar for each performance.

The graphic shows from left: Harold Pinter, first wife Vivien Merchant, lover Joan Bakewell and second wife Antonia Fraser