"Where are you from?"
Darling reader of exceptional taste, many actors have asked Pinter what he really meant, what was really true, for characters in his plays. His answer was, frequently, 'None of your f***ing business.'
That said. The cast of BIRTHDAY PARTY is must decide on dialects. A little insight here. Follow our logic...
First point: You simply can't move a Pinter play out of England. The language (like Pinter) defies you. Which leads us to the...
Second point: In BIRTHDAY PARTY, it is never said WHERE the characters are, except that they are seaside, that there is a pier, and that it may or may not be bracing. But this is England (presumably) so that's not much help. It is also never said where the characters are FROM, exactly. Stanley says he played a concert in Lower Edmonton. He says he lived in Basingstoke for years. Then again he says he stayed in Maidenhead. Goldberg also mentions Basingstoke, saying his beloved Uncle Barney lived there. And Uncle Barney took him to Brighton, Canvey Island, Rottingdean; he gave a speech in Bayswater... Other mentions are Marble Arch, King's Cross, Melbourne, Berlin, Vladivostock, Zagreb, Constantinople, Drogheda, Carrikmacross, the Rock of Cashel (near where St. Patrick is said to have banished Satan from a cave; also the seat of the kings of Munster before the Norman invasion)... "It's a round the world tour!" as Stanley says.
We can infer that McCann is decidedly Irish from his language alone. So much so that we hear this exchange:
STANLEY: Where are you from?
MCCANN: Where do you think?
STANLEY: I know Ireland well.
But WHERE in Ireland? And where the hell are Meg and Petey and Lulu from, at all? There's no mention from any of them. This brings us to the...
Third point: You're a worldy individual of deep curiosity, so you already know that Britain has a VAST number of dialects. London alone! So where to begin?
Well, we begin with what Pinter gave us before he told us to f*** off. The words in the script. And the knowledge that any or all of those words could be lies. So we ask ourselves what dialect seems to fit around the speech patterns of the characters. Cockney fits Petey well, though he might also do something more rural. Stanley should arguably have a Berkshire or Hampshire accent, but he fits well in East side London too. Lulu sounds like she's from the North of England. Goldberg's language sings with a Yiddish touch. So on.
A common note that Pinter gave actors in his plays was, 'More Relish!' So More Relish is what we are looking for.
But there's one more point. Point the fourth: Will the audience understand us what's being said? Will they think that having so many different dialects is not a matter of choice, but of sloppy acting? For example, with they think a good Geordie (Newcastle) accent is a failed Scottish accent, because they aren't familiar with it? Will they think a good Cockney Jewish is a failed Eastern European?
Of course we want to be understood. We want to tell this fabulous, hilarious, bizarre and brilliant story for you!
AND. We also refuse to make choices based on the (false) assumption that audiences just won't get something they may not be familiar with. We believe in clever audiences. We believe in you!
So considering the vastness of the world in THE BIRTHDAY PARTY... get ready to hear some dialects rarely performed in the States.
It's a tall order. But for you? Anything. And look. Poor actors. We're not having any fun at all... Ha!