Friday, 14 October 2005

How can I get down to Sidcup in these shoes?

The Nobel Peace Prize, awarded by a committee of Norwegians, once went to Henry Kissinger. This caused Tom Lehrer to retire, saying that on that day satire had died. Some thought the choice was not altogether inappropriate, given that Alfred Nobel was the inventor of dynamite.

The good news today is that the Swedish Nobel Prize committee has now given Harold Pinter the prize for literature to world-wide acclaim except from the yahoos of the American right, with the bilious Christopher Hitchens predictably ranting about the “degradation of the Nobel racket”.

Perhaps Nobel would not have disapproved of this choice—he was also an unconventional playwright: his only play, Nemesis, a prose tragedy in four acts, was printed when he was dying, and the whole stock except three copies was destroyed immediately after his death, being regarded as scandalous and blasphemous. The first surviving edition (bilingual Swedish-Esperanto) was published in Sweden in 2003. (Wikipedia)

I saw The Caretaker twice. The first time was in 1960 on the third night of the original production at the Arts Theatre Club in London (free tickets: I was reviewing it at a penny a line for a chain of provincial newspapers). The second was thirty-one years later at the Comedy Theatre. In both productions the tramp Davies was played by the late Donald Pleasence (seen here in 1991).

I would like to have seen some of the other UK productions of this marvellous play in which the part was taken by Leonard Rossiter, Jonathon Pryce, Warren Mitchell, Terence Rigby and Michael Gambon. Or even the 1993 production in Bucharest(“ĂŽngrijitorul”), though I have no idea at all whether Stefan Sileanu was any good. There have been eighty major and innumerable minor productions.

Here is Pleasence in New York in 1961, with a young Pinter in the background.


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