Actors in Pinter play lead tributes to legend
'No Man's Land' cast honour writer who railed against oppression
Saturday 27 December 2008
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.
Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rihanna's Met Gala dress took one Chinese woman 2 years to make, was reduced to omelette meme in 2 seconds
- 2 Qataris pledge to expand Canary Wharf
- 3 #JeSuisEd: People share photos of themselves eating awkwardly in solidarity with Labour leader
- 4 Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
- 5 Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
Penny Dreadful, series 2 episode 1, review: It is still gloriously silly
Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to replace Jeremy Clarkson and co
Eurovision 2015: What date and time is the song contest and who are the favourites to win?
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Indiana Jones sequel confirmed by Lucasfilm - but will Harrison Ford return to the franchise?
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
General election live: Booths open at 7am across the country on polling day