Harold Pinter on International Stages

by Tomaz Onic (Volume editor)
©2015 Edited Collection 213 Pages


Harold Pinter is inarguably one of the most influential modern British dramatists. The horizon of his literary, cultural and political activity stretches far beyond the borders of his homeland, as well as beyond the theatrical and literary world. The essays in this volume deal with the reception of his literary (and political) heritage in several European and non-European Countries, offering previously unpublished research. They bring together a variety of aspects focusing on Pinter in the former region of Eastern Europe like Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia, where his literary ideas as well as political activism seem fully applicable. They are balanced by selected Western perspectives, including Italian, British and American ones.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Preface
  • Pinter in the UK
  • The Company of Men: Pinter’s Gendered Conflicts
  • Pinter in Italy
  • ‘Silence Symphony’ Conducted by Pinter and Eduardo, Two World Theatre Maestri
  • The Italian Anatomy of Pinter: With their Pinter’s Anatomy, Italian Contemporary Playwrights ricci/forte Pay Their Dues to the British Nobel Laureate
  • An International Approach to A Slight Ache
  • Pinter Further East
  • Early Productions of Pinter on the Slovene Stage
  • Harold Pinter’s Reception in Croatia
  • Pinter in Macedonia: Productions, Translations and Critical Reception
  • Harold Pinter’s Authorial Image: Negotiating between the West and Hungary
  • Rediscovering Pinter – a few comments on the most recent Polish productions of Pinter’s plays
  • Harold Pinter’s ‘Room’ on Turkish Stages: a ‘Dilemma’ Between Art and Politics?
  • Pinter across the Atlantic
  • Being and Not Being Harold Pinter: Pinter Still in Play in the USA
  • Index

← 6 | 7 → Acknowledgements

The editor wishes to thank the authors of individual chapters for their enthusiastic response to the invitation for papers, and for sharing with the readers of this monograph their original contributions regarding Pinter’s literary and non-literary heritage in their own countries. Their insights into different aspects of Pinter studies offer a rich variety of previously unpublished research.

I would also like to thank the reviewers of these research papers for their valuable suggestions and their time invested in the reviewing process.

Last but not least, I thank my dear professor, mentor, colleague and friend Darja Hribar, who is unfortunately no longer with us. Were it not for her, who directed and guided me in my choice of research field, my scholarly and consequently editing activities like this one would very likely be in a different area of literature. ← 7 | 8 →

← 8 | 9 → Preface

Harold Pinter belongs among the most prominent and influential intellectuals of the twentieth century and left an important imprint in the field of British and international literature, as well as on the political and social scene at an international level. His career began with poetry writing in the early 1950s and continued through playwriting, writing for the screen, acting, directing and actively participating in political activism. For his endeavours and literary achievements, he was awarded many literary and non-literary prizes. Among the prominent ones are the Order of the British Empire, CBE (1966); the European Prize for Literature, Vienna (1973); The David Cohen British Literature Prize (1995); the Companion of Honour for services to Literature, (2002); the Wilfred Owen Poetry Prize (2005); the Nobel Prize for Literature (2005); the European Theatre Prize (2006) and the Legion d’Honneur (2007). He has also been awarded honorary degrees from several British as well as foreign universities.

Pinter’s plays have been and continue to be translated into numerous world languages in order to be published or performed in professional and amateur theatres. The extent of his literary, cultural and political impact has thus stretched far beyond the borders of his homeland and has received a variety of responses depending on many factors, like the time and place of productions or translations, the political regime at the time and place of production, as well as particular directing approaches. The purpose of this monograph is to look into the reception of Pinter’s works in various regions, in most cases countries, at various times since the early sixties, when Pinter’s plays began to be performed on the UK and international stages. Each of the eleven chapters focuses on a particular aspect of Pinter’s reception, starting in Pinter’s homeland, then moving abroad. Individual authors adopt specific approaches that serve the purposes of their research; in some cases, the reader is offered a general overview of national productions and locally published critical reviews; some chapters include audience response and commentaries from directors, actors and other theatre practitioners, while some focus on particular non-traditional productions or adaptations. All, however, provide the reader with expected as well as surprising research results that offer a broad and in several cases original insight into performing Pinter in foreign countries and cultures.

← 9 | 10 → The arrangement of chapters follows a geographical order, starting with the UK, then moving outwards: first to Italy, then to several former Eastern Bloc countries, and finally across the Atlantic, although the last chapter remains tightly linked to the old world in its focus on the productions of a Belarus theatre group in the US. The distribution of chapters according to location was chosen to provide the reader with a clear overview and logical arrangement of content. An index of last names, titles of plays and various other terms and concepts appears at the end of the monograph to help the reader navigate the content more easily and simplify the search for specific details across the chapters.

* * *

Pinter first acquired importance in the UK in the early 1960s, equally through his writing for television, radio and cinema as through critical appreciation for his smaller output for the theatre. In Chapter One, Mark Taylor-Batty explores some characteristics of Pinter’s early writing concerning gender issues: relationships between genders, the discourses of their representation, and the reliance on narrative mechanisms to achieve interpersonal control. The research presented in the opening chapter of this monograph shows how Pinter foregrounds or critiques some discourses of gender construction, as a means to appreciate this period of his writing, and its importance to the greater canon of his work.

In the following three chapters, the focus on the reception and analysis of Pinter’s works moves from the UK to Italy. Nick Ceramella investigates Pinter’s characteristic dramatic technique of silence, while simultaneously drawing a parallel to the plays of Eduardo De Filippo, an Italian master of writing for the stage, who – as pointed out by Ceramella – perfected the same technique. Ceramella, who called this chapter ‘Silence Symphony’, extends the connection of Pinter’s theatre to the Italian cultural space by drawing attention to the resemblance between Pinter and Pirandello, which shows in the theme of fear that enters the room from outside, and, most importantly, in their unsurpassed use of silence and people’s real use of language, the key to understanding their dramatic worlds. The similarities drawn between these playwrights offer a possible explanation for Pinter’s relatively positive acceptance by the Italian audience.

In Chapter Three, Pia Vittoria Colombo reports on her research into a contemporary theatre project implemented by the Italian theatre artists ricci/forte, titled Pinter’s Anatomy. The controversial Italian duo is famous for its postmodern reshaping of canonical dramatic literature which is often characterized by a specific and almost shocking playwriting style. The Pinter scholar Roberto Canziani invited ricci/forte to produce a theatre project that would retain a recognizable degree of the typical Pinter style and simultaneously to add an original ricci/ ← 10 | 11 → forte touch. Pinter’s Anatomy was as much a success as a controversy; however, it offered a unique interpretation of Pinter and thus established the conditions for an original reading of this famous playwright in Italy. In her research, Colombo looks into the means of functioning of this hybrid performance, while evaluating the contribution of ricci/forte to the reception of Pinter in Italy.

In the last chapter dealing with the varied reception of Pinter in Italy, Eve Marine Dauvergne presents a secondary school project in which she uses Pinter’s A Slight Ache in a creative writing course. Later she indicates the connection between this project and an interview Pinter agreed to give her in 1993 when she was a graduate student in London. The final part of the chapter includes the full text of this previously unpublished interview and thus constitutes a valuable addition to our finite archive of Pinter’s words.

Pinter’s works crossed the Iron Curtain relatively soon after their premieres in the West. Chapters Five to Seven deal with the reception of Pinter’s works in cultural spaces of three republics of the former Yugoslavia. Although this multinational federation was a political union, there were considerable historical and cultural differences among its formal components. Therefore, it is natural to expect differences as well as similarities in the reception of contemporary literature. As T. Onič reports, in Slovene theatres Pinter’s plays have never ceased to be staged since the first productions in the late 1960s to the present day; moreover, the number of new productions has increased from one every three to five years in the 1970s and 80s to one or more per year in the 2000s. This research focuses on the early productions of Pinter’s plays in Slovenia, provides historical and cultural background, as well as relevant critical reviews, all of which help to contextualize the performances and the response to them. Slovene reviews are complemented with international, particularly British ones, since parallel research provides a more grounded insight into the choices and decisions concerning the productions in Slovene theatres. Pinter came to Croatia in the mid-sixties, which is slightly sooner than in Slovenia; this was when The Collection and The Lover were premiered as a double bill in the Croatian capital of Zagreb. Acija Alfirević provides an overview of the main Croatian productions of Pinter from the beginnings to the present day, a selection of critical reviews of these productions, as well as commentary on both. Benjamin Keatinge investigates the production and translation history of Pinter’s work in Macedonia, with reference to reviews and articles on Pinter in Macedonian journals mainly during the 1990s and 2000s. The analysis and citations are offered in English through the translation of articles originally published in Macedonian, which makes them more accessible to and interesting for the international reader. The research considers the extant Macedonian scholarship on Pinter as well as interviews with academics and ← 11 | 12 → writers involved in the dissemination of Pinter’s work in Macedonia. References to scholarly work on Pinter’s reception in the former Soviet Union provide an illuminating parallel with developments in the Balkans. Keatinge also explores to what extent Pinter features in the university curriculum in Macedonia and suggests ways in which his work might be approached in the Macedonian classroom.

After the Yugoslav section, the spotlight moves further East. Andrea P. Balogh traces the shaping and changing of Harold Pinter’s authorial image between the West and Hungary. She starts by mapping the cultural logic of Soviet-style authoritarianism and the politics of translation informing the Hungarian construction of Pinter’s authorial identity in the reviews introducing Pinter to the Hungarian public sphere. She continues by examining the ways in which the officially sanctioned Marxist-Leninist worldview affected Hungarian critical interpretations of Pinter’s works. Balogh studies the contradictory politics of interpretation of Pinter’s works that linked the officially repudiated concept of absurd drama and the officially propagated notion of realism together in legitimizing the Hungarian critical interest in Pinter’s authorship in the 1960s. A specific interaction between the post-war British Marxist redefinitions of social realist drama and the Marxist-Leninist official notion of socialist realism is an original proposition by Balogh, who with this concept points out the differences between English and Hungarian notions of Pinter’s realism. She also addresses the issue of political censorship in literature and literary theory and concludes the study by creating a link between certain aspects of 1960s and 1980s reception of Pinter in Hungary.

In Poland, Pinter’s popularity reached its peak in the 1960s and 70s, when his plays were directed by the most distinguished Polish directors. Then interest in his plays slowly waned and finally faded to fewer than 10 productions of his plays in total between the fall of Communism in 1989 and Pinter’s Nobel Prize in 2005. For obvious reasons, the Nobel Prize brought Pinter back from oblivion on the Polish stage. In Chapter Nine, Anna Suwalska-Kołecka looks into this recent rediscovery of Pinter in Polish theatres and comments on the most notable post-2005 Polish productions of his plays. She comments on how Pinter has been understood, or occasionally misunderstood in Poland.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (October)
Geschlechterstudien Theater Rezeption Osteuropa
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 213 pp.

Biographical notes

Tomaz Onic (Volume editor)

Tomaž Onič is an Assistant Professor of Literature in the Department of English Studies at the University of Maribor (Slovenia). His research interests and teaching experience include contemporary British and American drama in close connection with translation and cultural studies as well as literary stylistics.


Title: Harold Pinter on International Stages
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
book preview page numper 31
book preview page numper 32
book preview page numper 33
book preview page numper 34
book preview page numper 35
book preview page numper 36
book preview page numper 37
book preview page numper 38
book preview page numper 39
book preview page numper 40
216 pages