Rhythm

Dear Reader of obvious good taste. The cast of THE BIRTHDAY PARTY is discussing rhythm. Pinter has a VERY clear voice throughout all of his works. One of the reasons for this is his meticulous crafting of rhythm. Cross talk. And the infamous pause. Take for example the following passage from Birthday Party.

(Pause)

MEG: Is Stanley up yet?

PETEY: I don't know. Is he?

MEG: I don't know.I haven't seen him down yet.

PETEY: Well then, he can't be up.

MEG: Haven't you seen him down?

PETEY: I've only just come in.

MEG: He must be still asleep.

(Pause)

You'll note (since you're a clever duck) the first two lines are each 5 syllables, and establish the first elements of 'up' and 'I don't know'. The third line closes each of those thoughts by volleying 'I dont know' to 'down' (as opposed to up). The last four lines are some of my favorites; each is 6 syallables, and volleys 'up', 'down', 'in', 'asleep'. And the whole exchange is rounded by silence. Gorgeous.

It's so difficult to pick out shining examples of the Pinter rhythm since it runs through the entirety of not only this play, but all his plays! The cross talk of Goldberg and McCann is 'out of this world'... To have all these rapid, playful, agressive exchanges vaulting out of silences is thrilling to play, and to watch. And very funny too.

Pinter, like Beckett, loved the music hall sensibility. Apparently Goldberg and McCann were influenced by an English comedy team, Jimmy Jewel and Ben Warriss, who, being mainly live comedians, are difficult to find and share with you. But don't despair! Pinter confessed to loving, and being influenced by, many comedy duos, like Laurel and Hardy, and of course, Abbott and Costello. So for a great example of what made Pinter smile, and makes us smile when working on the rhythm in his plays is the following sequence (outstanding) from a 1948 film called, (appropriately) 'The Noose Hangs High'. Enjoy!


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