20 Pinter Plays You've Probably Never Seen Onstage Pt. 2

Updated on 4 October 2018

Harold Pinter was one of the most important and influential playwrights of our time, but some of his works you might have never seen played out on the stage. His plays can be categorised into three distinct styles: Comedies of Menace (1957-1968) featuring absurdist theatre, Memory Plays (1968-1982) that toy with elements of memory and time, and Overtly Political (1982-2000). We are continuing with our list of the 20 Harold Pinter plays you’ve probably never seen, counting down from number 10.

If you missed out on the beginning of the list, click here.

10. The Hothouse (manuscript written in 1958)
Movement: Overtly Political
UK Productions: ’80, ’95, ‘07, ‘13
This tragicomedy is set in an institution that is open to interpretation. Is it a hospital, a rest home, or a sanitorium? The sanity and professionalism of the institution’s director, Roote, are constantly tested by his lower ranking employees. The play shifts to a darker tone when a patient is murdered and another is raped and impregnated.

9. One for the Road (1984)
Movement: Overtly Political
UK Productions: ’84, ’85, ’01, ‘03
Another political commentary on totalitarianism, also drawing inspiration from Argentina’s military dictatorship of the 1980s and later connected to Pinter’s investigation of the persecution and torture of Turkish writers. The play follows a government interrogator named Nicolas who represents an embodiment of the totalitarian regime under which this play takes place. Aggressive language and sexual torture fantasies ensue in this dark and gripping tale.

8. Celebration (1999)
Movement: Overtly Political/ Comedy of Menace
UK Productions: ’00, ’07 (television)
Riding off similar themes from 1991’s Party Time, this play is set in a posh West End restaurant reminiscent of The Ivy and follows three separate couples dining after coming from a stage play, ballet or opera. An underlying theme of upper-class ignorance is found in the couples’ suggested inability to recall details of the very theatrical shows that they just saw. The dialogues between the three separate couples eventually shift into more perverse territory, juxtaposed with the existential inner dialogue of restaurateur Richard, a character based on legendary London restaurateur Jeremy King.

7. Ashes to Ashes (1996)
Movement: Overtly Political
UK Productions: ’96, ‘01
A one-act play featuring sinister, hypnotic and mysterious tones. The play seems to make itself up as it goes along as the characters gradually reveal their natures to the audience and seemingly to the author as well. Memories of genocide and deportation haunt the play’s protagonist, Rebecca, along with a possible S&M relationship. But are these memories real or just a facet of her imagination?

6. Night School (1960)
Movement: Comedy of Menace
UK Productions: ’60, ‘98
Walter comes home after getting released from prison to find that his room is being rented out to a night-school language student named Sally. He then pretends to be more of a bigshot criminal than he actually is to woo her, but it turns out Sally may not be as innocent as she claims…

5. Silence (1968)
Movement: Memory Play
UK Productions: ’69, ‘95
A play exploring the different silences. The characters talk around each other rather than communicate directly. Pinter makes used of confusion and repetition in the play’s dialogues.

4. Tea Party (1964)
Movement: Comedy of Menace
UK Productions: ’68, ‘70
Sisson, a middle-aged self-made entrepreneur, becomes engaged to a young secretary, marries a young second wife and brings his new brother-in-law into his business all on the same day. But is everybody who they seem to be? And is there a conspiracy going against Sisson? The answers are revealed eponymous tea party that ends the play.

3. Moonlight (1993)
Movement: Overtly Political
UK Productions: ‘93
Andy is on his deathbed as he relives his life’s memories with his wife sitting by his side. His offspring, estranged from their father, sit to the side of the room in the shadows. A fear of death and alienation within one’s family dominate the play’s themes.

2. The New World Order (1991)
Movement: Overtly Political
UK Productions: ‘91
This gut-wrenching play lasts just 10 minutes and you’ll be on the edge of your seat the entire time. A man sits blindfolded, gagged and tied to a chair while two men discuss in a refined and gentlemanly fashion what they plan to do to him without specifying what exactly.

1. A Night Out (1959)
Movement: Comedy of Menace
UK Productions: ‘60
Albert is a lonely introvert in his late twenties. He lives with his overbearing mother and works an average, every-day office job. One day, he is falsely accused of sexual assault at an office party and things only escalate from there.

Pinter’s radical and thought-provoking plays have seen productions all across the globe in over 40 countries, which is not only a testament to his unmistakable talent but may also be a result of the minimalist and low-cost set designs combined with the sheer brevity of his plays. Many of Harold Pinter’s plays are short in length and composed of just one act, which is why they are commonly billed together with his other works.

Pinter at the Pinter will run at the Harold Pinter Theatre from 6 September 2018 until 23 February 2019 and will a whole host of his best one act plays.

For more information on Pinter at the Pinter and which plays will be running, click here.

Tagged as
Nicholas Ephram Ryan Daniels

By Nicholas Ephram Ryan Daniels

Ephram is a jack of all trades and enjoys attending theatre, classical music concerts and the opera.