Many happy returns to Harold Pinter’s ‘comedy of menace’, THE BIRTHDAY PARTY as the starry West End revival opened last month. The play turns 60 this year and to celebrate at the theatre that is bearing the playwrights name, Sonia Freedman and seasoned Pinter-director Ian Rickson have assembled a wonderful cast for this British classic.
Famously savaged by all but the Sunday Times after the legendary London premiere in 1958, it has now grown to become one of Pinter’s most famous and most performed works. It’s a disturbing portrait of life in a run-down seaside boarding house on the southern English coast where piano-player Stanley Webber (Toby Jones) lives, run by Meg (Zoe Wanamaker) and Petey (Peter Wight) Boles, who arrange a party to celebrate their lodger’s birthday. The flirtatious Lulu, target of Stanley’s lust (Pearl Mackie) joins them, followed by two sinister strangers, Goldberg (Stephen Managan) and McCann (Tom Vaughn-Lawlor).
Critic Dominic Cavandish, in his five-star Telegraph review “rejoices in the play’s undiminished power to disconcert.” It has all the Pinteresque elements, ambitious identity, confusions of time and place and dark political symbolism.
I left my sketch with Toby at the Pinter stage door on Saturday and he along with the rest of the cast very kindly signed it for me.