Harold Pinter: a celebration, National Theatre, London

5.00

Some pauses to remember

Sunday night's celebration of Harold Pinter, who died last Christmas, was a unique occasion which did something none of the fulsome obituaries quite managed: it reminded you how much actors love performing his stuff, what wonderful material he gave them, and how his work defined, to a very great extent, the acting styles of the last century.

And what a range of talent on view, from Colin Firth reprising his definitive performance as the lobotomised Aston in The Caretaker and David Bradley bringing the house down with that play's hilarious speech about a tramp searching for a pair of shoes in a monastery in Luton, through to Eileen Atkins and Sheila Hancock as a pair of derelict old women discussing night buses in an early sketch that Hancock actually introduced in 1959.

This was like watching Peter Cook and Dudley Moore embalmed in their raincoats. The rhythm and London argot of Pinter's writing caught the new satire wave, continued the spare, clipped style of Noël Coward to some extent, and allowed the British modern actor to develop laconic, brutal, and mostly post-Christian investigations into the psychology of modern manners and relationships.

Jude Law partnered the lustrous Indira Varma in the double adultery confession from The Lover, and Michael Sheen and Janie Dee played the edgily tense encounter from Betrayal in which her affair with his best friend is first acknowledged; that was being watched by Jeremy Irons, who appeared in the film, and Henry Woolf, Pinter's oldest friend from schooldays, who arranged the love nest for Pinter and Joan Bakewell, the root of the 1978 play.

Irons wore a stunning pair of red shoes, Gina McKee a mauve dress, Penelope Wilton a much better black outfit than she has for Gertrude in Law's Hamlet, and the actors sat in a big V, expertly marshalled by director Ian Rickson, beautifully lit by Peter Mumford and joined movingly at the end by students from LAMDA reciting Pinter's Nobel Prize speech, as they did in the author's presence last October.

Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan crossed swords over a languorous McKee in Old Times, while Douglas Hodge and Samuel West brought Pinter's outstandingly evocative tributes to the actor-manager Anew McMaster and the cricketer Arthur Wellard to pulsating life. Kenneth Cranham did one of the great speeches from The Homecoming and Andy de la Tour got us delightfully lost in Bolsover Street from No Man's Land.

Lia Williams, Susan Wooldridge, Roger Lloyd Pack, Harry Burton, Henry Goodman and Lloyd Hutchinson all had their moments. The programme was brilliantly compiled to include a good selection of poems, too, including several written for Pinter's second wife, Antonia Fraser, and several angry ones, including "Cricket at Night", done by Irons with great steel.

Lovely stuff indeed: a special treat.

Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
books
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
books
Arts and Entertainment
The man with the golden run: Daniel Craig as James Bond in 'Skyfall'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Waving Seal' by Luke Wilkinson was Highly Commended in the Portraits category

photography
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering