Janie Dee: Pinter, a man of passion, peace... and pauses

Share
Related Topics

Today I'm thinking of Harold Pinter with sadness, but mostly with gratitude. Wanting to remember everything. Such as the first run through of his play Betrayal, in which I played Emma, in 2003. He turned up in his dark glasses. At the end he took them off and announced to Peter Hall that he thought it could be "the best" and that he was taking us all out to lunch. Peter later reassured us that the invitation was a sure sign of his approval.

I nervously asked him over for lunch with his wife, Antonia Fraser, (well, we did live round the corner). I made Irish stew as a nod to the play. They were easy, charming and fascinating together. We talked about how our five-year-old daughter Matilda had said "fuck off" in the bath the night before, then the conversation moved on to politics. I confided that I'd felt confused about Tony Blair recently, that he seemed to be making sense on the telly. Harold looked me straight in the eye. "Janie," he said, "let me make one thing absolutely clear. Tony Blair is a CUNT." After a slight pause, Antonia said: "Well I'm glad Matilda wasn't around to hear that."

A couple of years later in Dublin I was playing Kate in Old Times, as part of a Pinter Festival. We knew that, despite his illness, he was "here". In a hushed VIP room, the door slightly opened. In I went in my curlers. "Hello," I whispered. "Janie!" replied his deep, no nonsense, unmistakable voice. That look: completely direct, warm, twinkling – though it could be challenging when someone asked him a silly question and he would ask, "What do you mean?"

On the last day of the Pinter Festival in Dublin's gorgeous Gate Theatre, Derek Jacobi, Penelope Wilton, Michael Gambon, Sinead Cusack and Jeremy Irons turned out in tribute to him. Derek feigned inability. Penny swore a lot. Michael giggled. We read Celebration, which brought the house down. Harold came to the foot of the stage and shook our hands. Later, I sat next to him at dinner. I mentioned that American audiences were good and he erupted.

We first met when the Iraq war was a potential threat. "Excuse me," I said. "My name is Janie Dee and I am producing the London Concert for Peace, please could I ask you for some words?" The words were delivered to my address that afternoon in the shape of two poems: "God bless America" and "The Bombs". I decided that "God bless America" was too accusatory. He called to say: "Either you use both my poems or none at all." I was shocked, scared, irritated... then moved that he should care and bother. I would later find out that he would always care and always bother. Of course, both poems were done, and "God bless America" brought the house down.

The last time I saw Harold was in Windsor. He came to Peter Hall's production of Old Times and took us to dinner in a restaurant that I had only dreamed of going to as a child. He looked so handsome. He was charming, enthusiastic and clear about everything. He turned to me at one point and said directly: "I love it when you really go for it at the end there."

It had as much significance as when he had once turned to me and said slowly and precisely: "I've written another poem. It goes like this: 'And so it goes on... and on... and on.... And so it goes on... and on... and on.... And so it goes on, And so it goes on, And so it goes on... and on... and on...'" He paused. I waited. "Don't feel that you need make any comment," he said. And grinned.

<<p> Janie Dee appears in 'Woman in Mind' at the Vaudeville Theatre, London, from February

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The London Symphony Orchestra, led by Valery Gergiev, performs a free open-air concert in Trafalgar Square  

Help! London has been conquered by Event Security and nobody is safe from its pointless screens

Howard Jacobson
 

The people of Iraq cannot be left to suffer alone

Dominik Stillhart
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable