the New York Times reviewer stated: "Nothing really happens in
'Celebration,' even by Pinter
standards. It's basically all talk, exchanges of insults, skewed
highly suspect memories described with placid certainty. The subjects,
level, are almost invariably sex and power. And yet it all packs the
wallop of perfectly orchestrated slapstick."
Celebration is an acerbic
portrait of a sated culture choking on its own material success.
Startling, full of black humor and wicked satire, Celebration displays
a vivid zest for life.
(in alphabetical order)
We are catching up with this man's creative talent at last
(The Guardian, Mar 1, 2007, by Michael Billington)
Harold Pinter is currently everywhere. His final play, Celebration, went out this week on More4 along with a lively 75-minute documentary....
But why now? How does one account for what Noel Coward, witnessing a spate of late revivals of his own work, called "Dad's Renaissance"? In Pinter's case, it may stem partly from a sense of collective guilt. In October 2005, Pinter's 75th birthday was marked by the London theatre, aside from a fringe production of The Lover, with a resounding silence: you had to go to Dublin to find Michael Colgan at the Gate Theatre staging an Irish hooley for the Hackney hero involving plays, productions and an array of star guests. The fact that Pinter, later that same week, was awarded the Nobel prize for literature only made the British theatre's indifference to his work all the more astonishing.
Amends are now being made, as if we have belatedly woken up to Pinter's international stature. But I suspect there is more to it than that. One sign of any genuine creative artist is that he or she is always ahead of the game: they see or hear something that the rest of us don't. Both artistically and politically, Pinter has persistently been ahead of the pack; and now the public and critics are at last catching up with him.
Look back over the history of Pinter's plays and you find that, with the exception of The Caretaker, they have all been misunderstood first time round. The Birthday Party in 1958 was famously dismissed as gibberish or a derivative piece of Ionesco absurdism. I was amongst those, as colleagues never cease to remind me, who in 1978 booted Betrayal into touch for "its obsession with the tiny ripples on the stagnant pond of bourgeois-affluent life". And in 1996 the masterly Ashes to Ashes was attacked for its introduction of images of European suffering into a rural English setting. No one ever "gets" a Pinter play on a single viewing or reading.
But what I think we have woken up to is the nature of his talent. In the More4 documentary Pinter said, "I've always been a political playwright," and the truth of that has finally come home. Pinter's plays aren't about mysterious pauses, nameless horrors or weasels under cocktail cabinets: what they are essentially about is a negotiation for power carried out in hermetic conditions under pressurised circumstances. But even that is too neat a generalisation. Henry Woolf, Pinter's old chum, points out that Pinter's preoccupation with rooms is a reflection of the historic Jewish belief that "the only safe place to live is inside your head". Interiors are also a way of harnessing violence: watching Celebration on television, I was astonished by the moment when Colin Firth's merchant banker admitted that sitting in plush restaurants was a way of assuaging his psychopathic tendencies. "I don't feel," he shockingly said, "like killing everyone in sight." [...]
The Lion in Pinter
(Radio Times, Feb 24-Mar2, 2007, by E. Jane Dickson)
It’s 50 years since Harold Pinter’s first play, The Room, was performed. This week, in tribute to his towering influence on British theatre, his most recent play, Celebration, written in 1999, will be aired on More4.
Set in a ritzy London restaurant, Celebration is a biting, black comedy about two thuggish businessmen and their wives on a night out, and boasts an extraordinary stellar cast, many of them drawn from Pinter’s regular “stable” of actors.
As the curtain rises on this landmark piece of televised theatre, RT asks three of the production’s distinguished cast what makes our most celebrated—and possibly least understood—living playwright so special....
The Inside Story
(Radio Times, Feb 26, 2007)
Janie Dee, who plays Suki in Celebration, first met Harold Pinter when he contributed three of his poems to a concern for peace in Iraq that she produced. “We’re good mates,” says Dee. “He’s so articulate and precise, yet he talks strangely from the heart. In lots of his plays you see him holding us and our behaviour up to ourselves very clearly. I think Harold almost hand-picked us for this production, because he knows that we’ll interpret his stuff in a way that makes him happy. Above all, you have to be very honest as an actor to do Pinter.”
Watch our for...
(Daily Mail, July 14, 2006, by Baz Bamigboye)
Michael Gambon, Colin Firth, Jim Broadbent, James Bolam, Stephen Rea, Sophie Okonedo and Penelope Wilton will act in a television version of Harold Pinter’s play Celebration for TV channel More4. John Crowley will direct the film to be broadcast in December, for producers Alan Maloney and Michael Colgan.
More4 Television Advert
"Celebration" was first performed in 2000 at the Almeida theatre in North London, with another play entitled "The Room" that Harold Pinter wrote in 1957. It was considered a highly unique experience to see Pinter's first play and his newest, works separated by more than 40 years, staged together. However, the two one-act plays are published together now as well.
From reviews for the Almeida production in 2000:
feistiest piece Pinter has written in years...What Pinter reveals, with
good deal of satirical verve, is the coarse swagger and loutish
of these walking wallets and their spouses. But Pinter's plow is much
an obvious attack on the nerdy nouveau riche....here the diners use the
restaurant as a retreat from the
outside world....And, as always in Pinter,
there is no such thing as a harmless sanctuary: here the threat to an
of crude conviviality comes from an intrusive waiter...Behind the
play's wild comedy lurks something strange and
incalculable which is beautifully caught in Pinter's fast-moving
production. (Michael Billington for the Guardian)
All the action
takes place in a swish London restaurant where two
coarse-grained strategy consultants are dining with their respective
wives. At an adjacent table a banker and his wife banter over his
recently discovered affair. But while Pinter gets a lot of laughs out
of these gold-plated philistines, he also suggests they are displaced
people. Shorn of any inherited values, they live in an eternal present
of sex, food and conspicuous consumption.
readings tend not to make huge inroads at the box office. But
then they tend not to boast a cast as mouthwatering as the veritable
thespocracy which will muster, scripts in hand, on Thursday. It
consists of six Pinter veterans in Michael Gambon, Penelope Wilton,
Jeremy Irons, Stephen Rea, Janie Dee and Kenneth Cranham, and three
Pinter virgins in Sinéad Cusack, Charles Dance and Joanna Lumley.