It began.

First read last night. Our set (by Marty Burnett) is just what Pinter calls for. Our sound (by Richard Baird and Justin Lang) I won't give away. It's inspired. But let me tell you how the evening began. It began with a poem. By Pinter. Read by our fearless leader, Richard. 'In the main', I do not care for Pinter poems. I join the chorus of admirers who claim his best poetry is in his plays. Richard often relates (and did last night as well) a little story about this. Pinter wrote a poem which goes,

'I knew Don Bradman, in his prime.

Another time. Another time.'

That's IT. He sent it to a friend to read. After days of awaiting a response; praise presumably, he rang his friend. 'What did you think of the piece?' Pinter asks. 'What piece?' his friend replies. 'The Bradman piece.' says Pinter. (At this point Richard laughs 'The Bradman PIECE, like it's this massive work?!' then he continues...) 'Sorry' say's Pinter's friend. 'I haven't finished it yet.'

But last night began with a Pinter poem called 'A View of the Party'. It's unusual for Pinter to give much (or any) insight into how HE believes his plays should be interpretted. So many unanswered questions. So many shifting memories. As Richard also said, last night, Pinter characters often use memory as a weapon. One character remembers something one way, another remembers it differently, each memory defines a different reality. We are not usually told which actually happened. (As in life, I'd say.) But the fact that I see something THIS way, means that IS what happened, even if I fabricated that reality, even if I lied, to me, that's true. I think Lulu does this distinctly in Act III, when confronting Goldberg. 'Why did you do it?' she asks him. 'You wanted me to Lulula. So I did.' That's very possibly true. But she lashes out at him, you used me for a night...a passing fancy...you quenched you ugly thirst...etc, etc.

But what I mean to say is that it BEGAN with a poem, by Pinter, which IS in fact very revealing (at least for Pinter) of his intentions with this play. The poem is dated 1958, the same year THE BIRTHDAY PARTY debuted with it's sad one week run. (Pinter later ascribed the failure to using '-' rather than '...'. (The critics could tell the difference between a dash and an elipses a mile away, even though they couldn't see them.)

Perhaps. Perhaps not. But this is the poem. This is how rehearsal for The Birthday Party BEGAN.

A View of the Party

The thought that Goldberg was

A man she might have known

Never crossed Meg’s words

That morning in the room.

The thought that Goldberg was

A man another knew

Never crossed her eyes

When, glad, she welcomed him.

The thought that Goldberg was

A man to dread and know

Jarred Stanley in the blood

When, still, he heard his name.

While Petey knew, not then,

But later, when the light

Full up upon their scene,

He looked into the room

And by morning Petey saw

The light begin to dim

(The daylight full of sun)

Though nothing could be done

Nat Goldberg, who arrived

With a smile on every face

Accompanied by McCann,

Set a change upon the place

The thought that Goldberg was

Sat in the center of the room

A man of weight and time,

To supervise the game

The thought that was McCann

Walked in upon this feast,

A man of skin and bone,

With a green stain on his chest

Allied in their theme,

They imposed upon the room

A dislocation and doom,

Though Meg saw nothing done.

The party they began,

To hale the birthday in,

Was generous and affable,

Though Stanley sat alone.

The toasts were said and sung

All spoke of other years

Lulu, on Goldberg’s breast

Looked up into his eyes.

And Stanley sat- alone,

A man he might have known

Triumphant on his hearth,

Which never was his own.

For Stanley had no home.

Only where Goldberg was,

And his bloodhound McCann,

Did Stanley remember his name

They played at blind man’s buff,

Blindfold the game was run,

McCann tracked Stanley down,

The darkness down and gone

Found the game lost and won,

Meg, all memory gone,

Lulu’s love night spent,

Petey, impotent

A man they never knew

In the center of the room,

And Stanley’s final eyes

Broken by McCann

1958

(Young, dreamy Pinter. Did you know he wrote Birthday Party backstage, while acting in an old pot boiler? Playing a heavy. That's 'more than true. It's a fact.')

#haroldpinter #aviewoftheparty

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