Pinter celebrates a lifetime of shocking audiences with taboo-busting obscenity

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The Independent Culture

Voices, which receives its world premiere next week, includes repeated uses of the term "motherfucker", the word that research has shown is widely considered to be the most offensive to audiences. It is thought to be having its first airing on the BBC's culture and classical music station Radio 3.

The writer, who also features in the cast, was commissioned to write the work to commemorate his birthday on 10 October, the date of its broadcast.

Voices will undoubtedly be one of the last dramatic works Pinter will complete. He was diagnosed with throat cancer three years ago and has said he does not expect to write another full play. He said recently: "I think I've come to the end of my play-writing life. One never knows, but I have written 29 damn plays, long and short, and I think that's probably about it." He has concentrated mainly on poetry in the past few years.

The BBC has billed the production as "the language of torturers and the tortured ... set to a haunting radiophonic score". It features short, fractured sections of speech from various characters as well as snatches of Arabic music and singing. It is thought to have been partly inspired by Pinter's reaction to events in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.

Until the 1990s, the offending word was rarely used even on television, despite its increasing appearance in a number of gritty Hollywood films. The director Alex Cox famously redubbed his film Repo Man with the words "melon farmer" and "mother flipper" to avoid the expression being bleeped out on television.

Radio 3's controller, Roger Wright, said: "We are sensitive to the language and are putting it on at a time when we know children will not be listening. A writer like Pinter uses that sort of language in his work, as do other major figures. It's a really serious work of art."

The programme will be preceded by a warning about the language. Radio 1 was criticised last week by the broadcasting regulator Ofcom for a 7pm trail containing the f-word.

Pinter, a Rada-trained actor, made his name with The Birthday Party in 1958. His works are known for their tense pauses, evident in his latest half-hour production, a collaboration with the composer James Clarke. Voices also features the actors Roger Lloyd-Pack and Douglas Hodge.

Radio 3 is also to repeat the 1990 broadcast of Pinter's play Betrayal on Wednesday.