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.
Two of the great contemporary British actors of our time, Zoe Wanamaker and Samantha Bond combined in David Leveaux’s beautifully judged revival of Passion Play at the Duke of York’s Theatre last summer.
Peter Nichol’s searing play of a modern marriage disrupted by a ‘blast of sexual infidelity’ is technically daring with the two leading characters each portrayed by two actors for public and private thoughts.
When it opened in 1981 at London’s Aldwych Theatre critics recounted a joke about Moses coming down from Sinai with the Commandments and announcing, “First the good news – I’ve got ’em down to ten. Now the bad news – adultery’s still on.”
Samantha’s maiden name is apt – her best known screen role is in the James Bond series, playing Miss Moneypenny, secretary to M. She appeared throughout Pierce Brosnan’s tenure as 007 which began in 1994 and ended in 2002 with Golden Eye, Tomorow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day.
Zoe’s extensive list of stage and screen credits includes the Harry Potter series. Fo her theatre works hs ha sheen nominate four times of the Tony and nine times for the Oliver awards, wining two. She has also received three BAFTA nominations.
Both signed this sketch for me at the theatre in Juen 2013.
David Suchet is best known for his portrayal of Agatha Christie’s most famous detective Hercule Poirot. He has played the eponymous Belgian sleuth since 1989, so you would think some of his characteristics my have rubbed off – impatience, opinionated and direct… but no, he’s quite the opposite, one of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet.
He signed a black biro sketch of Poirot after a performance of All My Sons with Zoe Wanamaker at the Apollo Theatre stage door foyer in June 2010. One thing that they do obviously both have in common is doing things in an orderly manner. Placing my sketch neatly on the table he produced a complete set of Sharpie pens. A pack of 20 with every colour available. He selected the red, looked at the drawing then signed and dedicated it to me.