Fascination of a poetic time loop

Ashes to Ashes Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London WC2
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The Independent Online
The world premiere of Harold Pinter's latest work is, culturally speaking, a national occasion. But at Pinter's own express wish, this premiere was held in a small studio space in front of a small audience.

But if it lacked glitz and a celebrity audience, is exuded fascination.

With the Royal Court's home in Chelsea, London, being rebuilt, its studio space is now at the converted Ambassadors Theatre in the West End. Or at least in half of it. Ashes to Ashes had its first night in the former circle of the Ambassadors, a stage, seats and standing room at a remarkably generous 10p built incongruously into the Baroque surround.

Downstairs was another studio theatre. Between the two was the comfiest bar in theatreland with sofas in which to sink and ruminate.

And there was much sinking and ruminating afterwards from the 150 strong audience, which included Pinter's wife, Lady Antonia Fraser, to whom the play is dedicated.

Champions of Pinter judged this, his first full length play for three years, to be a triumph. Stephen Daldry, artistic director of the Royal Court, and one of those discussing the play afterwards, said: "I think it's his best for years. It is a poem. It is dense, hugely complex, radical, lyrical and political."

Martin Esslin, author of the seminal work Theatre of the Absurd, described the play as "A time loop, very avant garde ... a brilliant piece of lyrical writing about memory and the reviewing of life."

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