Actors in Pinter play lead tributes to legend

'No Man's Land' cast honour writer who railed against oppression

Actors in the current production of Harold Pinter's No Man's Land yesterday led tributes to the legendary playwright, actor and activist.

Michael Gambon, David Walliams, Nick Dunning and David Bradley led a minute's silence at the Duke of York theatre in St Martin's Lane, London, where the first performance of a work by Pinter since his death was watched by 650 people. The Nobel Prize winner died on Wednesday aged 78 after a long battle with cancer.

"I'm very honoured to have known him personally and professionally over the past 10 years. It's a huge loss," Bradley said yesterday morning. "People from Germany, Israel and China would come backstage saying Harold Pinter was so important to them. He wrote about oppression and people taking terrible advantage and oppressing each other on a personal level. Although he did not write the plays in an overtly political way they stood the test of time because they have universal themes. They meant so much to people in different ways."

The playwright Michael Frayn said: "He did two really wonderful things politically. He went to Turkey and protested against the arrest of the writers there. It's a very difficult thing to do: it takes a lot of moral courage to actually go to somebody's country and give them a blasting for their policies. The other thing was his Nobel acceptance speech, which was remarkable and had a huge impact."

Pinter wrote more than 30 plays, as well as award-winning screenplays, poetry, and polemical prose. His most celebrated plays include The Homecoming, The Caretaker and Betrayal, which was based on his seven-year affair with the television presenter and journalist Joan Bakewell. Screenplays for the big screen included his Bafta-winning adaptations of L P Hartley's novel The Go-Between (1972) and John Fowles' The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981).

The writer's marriage to Lady Antonia Fraser, the daughter of a Labour peer and the former wife of a Conservative MP, is credited with fuelling the political activism for which his later work and public life was renowned. A 46-minute acceptance speech of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, delivered by video link in a husky voice at a time when he was struggling with throat cancer, was an undiluted tirade against American foreign policy under George Bush.

Pinter joined other artists, including Ken Loach and the pop band Blur, in sending a letter to Downing Street opposing the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Born into a Jewish family in pre-war Hackney nine years before the outbreak of war, his grandparents had fled persecution in Poland and Odessa. He refused National Service in 1948 as a conscientious objector, and joined Anew McMaster's Shakespearean Irish touring company in 1951.

Made a CBE in 1966, when he was 36, and awarded the Austrian State Prize for European Literature in 1973 and the David Cohen British Literature Prize in 1995, he also received a plethora of honorary degrees.

Tony Benn, the former Labour MP, called Pinter "a great playwright and a great figure on the political scene". He added: "His death will leave a huge gap that will be felt by the whole political spectrum."

His agent said yesterday that a private funeral will be followed by a memorial service open to the public.

Arts and Entertainment
Loading individual letters on to an original Heidelberg printing press
Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'