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Page last updated: 15/12/2012 Masque Theatre © 2012

The Birthday Party
by Harold Pinter

26 - 29 February 1992
Northampton College Arts Centre, St Gregory's Road, Northampton


Production No. 265

More images from The Birthday Party

THE BIRTHDAY PARTY REMEMBERED
George Hammerschmidt, director, writing in 2008


The Birthday Party was Pinter’s first full-length play and its première was greeted by catastrophic notices from almost all the critics. By the time I came to choose it for a Masque production in 1992, however, critics and theatre goers had become accustomed to Pinter’s pauses and his menace: staging one of his plays was no longer a daring enterprise.

I had not previously seen a production of the play but on reading it, I was immediately struck by its immense dramatic energy, its wonderful language and Pinter’s skilful use of humour that served only to underscore the terror that gradually unwinds throughout the piece.

I was fortunate to be blessed with a tip-top cast and crew and, despite my detailed rehearsal scheduling (designed to save actors from having to time attend rehearsals unnecessarily) the cast became so involved that they all attended all the rehearsals and contributed hugely to the exploration and unfolding of this fine play.

The whole experience was so enjoyable that I wrote Harold Pinter (subsequently receiving a charming hand-written reply) and can do no better than to quote from my letter to him:

I am writing to tell you how much pleasure and stimulation our small theatre group has had out of working on The Birthday Party.

We are an amateur company that tries to present plays with more substance to them than the fare normally offered by the local Rep. Theatre. I chose to direct The Birthday Party because, on re-reading it, I realised that it is still so alive, so relevant and makes such good theatre.

I decided to set it in the round because I did not want the audiences to be free to distance themselves from the intensity and the pressure on Stanley. Indeed, I felt that by encircling the stage, they would contribute to that pressure and to the threat. And so it proved. One man told me afterwards that he was so appalled by what was happening to Stanley that he wanted to walk out but that sitting in the round made it virtually impossible for him to do so!

Best of all was that the cast became utterly hooked on the play, never losing interest in either text or plot. So often, amateurs attend only to their own sections but here, all the cast (and even the crew) were fascinated by the whole of the play from start to finish. The concentration was intense and it turned out to be the happiest and most rewarding production I have ever tackled.

So, from a grateful cast and from me, "thank you".

Read Harold Pinter's reply

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A scene from The Birthday Party

Cast & Crew

Petey John Hendy
Meg Pam Stenson
Stanley Tony Saunders
Lulu Sharon Sims-King
Goldberg Bryan Hall
McCann Clive Tomkinson

Director George Hammerschmidt
Stage Manager Greta Hendy
Assistants to Stage Manager Paul Geeson, Phyllida Hammerschmidt
Prompt Elaine Geeson
Costumes Jane Roebuck
Set David Dunkley
Lighting Kevin Burke

           
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