“There are things I remember, that may never have happened, but as I remember them, so they take place” –Old Times.
We are discussing memory tonight. ‘It seems to me’, says Richard, ‘Meg has the memory of a goldfish. About 30 seconds… and then it’s gone.’ Of course, Meg is a shining example of memory loss, unintentional changes, and occasionally even, willful changes. We speak in more depth about the willful changes of memory. We are, after all, each the hero of our own story. Who among us hasn’t embellished our lives? Marc says, ‘Goldberg seems like the sort who dictates his own reality. He would say to someone, ‘Kenneth’, when the man’s name is not Kenneth, but he wants him to be Kenneth… So he’s Kenneth.’ Names and identity are constantly to be questioned in Pinter. In THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, Meg Boles and Petey Boles are certainly Mr. and Mrs. Boles, and that’s that. But McCann is also Seamus and Dermot. And note, right after Goldberg calls McCann, ‘Dermot’, Petey asks, ‘who?’ and Goldberg says ‘what?’ as though he no longer remembers himself. And Nat Goldberg is also Simey and, right at the end, surprisingly, Benny. This is questioned several times. ‘I thought your name was Nat?’ ‘She called me Simey’ Goldberg always replies, as though this were sufficient explanation. And way on the other side of this; Lulu is only ever Lulu. However, as far as names go, in this play, I think that Lady Mary Splat, the unseen recent mother of a little girl, takes the cake. And of course, there’s Uncle Barney. He was a cosmopolitan. What do you mean? One of the old school. Uncle Barney…
Do you know the impetus of THE BIRTHDAY PARTY? A young Pinter, one night, stayed in the attic of a decrepit, old, B&B, which was run by a massive, strange, sexual woman and her diminutive husband. There was just one single boarder. It seems he used to play the piano. The wife was ever ruffling and touching the boarder. Pinter asked him why he didn’t leave. ‘Because’, said the boarder, ‘there’s nowhere else to go.’
And that’s ‘more than true, it’s a fact.’