The arrival of Harold Pinter on the Theatrical scene in the late 1950s caused a stir, a sensation and a harbinger of things to come for the decade ahead. As with just about everything in the 1960s, Pinter represented the great change society was in the midst undertaking; from Music to Art to Film to Writing.
It was not easily welcomed change – Harold Pinter’s debut play in 1958, The Birthday Party, was so savagely criticized that it had to close in less than a week. Two years later, his second play The Caretaker was hailed as a triumph, largely by the same critics who so badly trashed his earlier work.
Pinter’s art has been both revered and reviled through the years. But in the 60s, it was a revolution. Labeled by critics as one of the “Angry Young Men“, Pinter’s work went for the jugular, laying open the hypocrisies of society, challenging institutions, exposing those corruptions of complacency and genteel behavior. He bent more than a few noses out of shape, but it was his keen eye and well-honed craft which made those uncomfortable glimpses of human nature bearable, if not intentionally uncomfortable and ultimately enlightening.
His first play for Radio, written in 1959 and produced here for the first time on March 1, 1960, is one which has fallen into neglect – it’s hardly ever performed today, but it represents a significant step in the larger picture of Pinter’s work.
If you are familiar with the work of Harold Pinter, you may not be all that familiar with this early piece. Although it has appeared in compilations of early works, I don’t believe this performance has surfaced in recent years.
If you aren’t familiar with the work of Harold Pinter, but are curious to know more about the 60s than the broad strokes, check this one out. It’s an hour and a roller-coaster ride, and can be infuriating in places – but it represents the time, painfully well.
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