Harold Pinter, CH, CBE, Nobel Laureate (10 October 1930 – 24 December 2008), was a renowned English playwright, screenwriter, actor, director, poet, political activist, and president of the Central School of Speech and Drama. After publishing poetry as a teenager and acting in school plays, Pinter began his theatrical career in the mid-1950s as a rep actor using the stage name David Baron. During a writing career spanning over half a century, beginning with his first play, The Room (1957), Pinter wrote 29 stage plays; 26 screenplays; many dramatic sketches, radio and TV plays; poetry; some short fiction; a novel; and essays, speeches, and letters.
He is best known as a playwright and screenwriter, especially for The Birthday Party (1957), The Caretaker (1959), The Homecoming (1964), and Betrayal (1978), all of which he adapted to film, and for his screenplay adaptations of others’ works, such as The Servant (1963), The Go-Between (1970), The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981), The Trial (1993), and Sleuth (2007). He also directed almost 50 stage, TV, and film productions of his own and others’ works. Despite frail health since 2001, he continued to act on stage and screen, the last being the critically-acclaimed October 2006 production of Samuel Beckett‘s Krapp’s Last Tape, during the 50th anniversary season of the Royal Court. In addition to continuing to write (mostly poetry), give interviews, speak about political issues, and attend theatrical and cinematic premieres of his own and others’ works, he accepted the presidency of the Central School of Speech and Drama in October 2008.
Pinter’s dramas often involve strong conflicts among ambivalent characters fighting for verbal and territorial dominance and for their own remembered versions of the past; stylistically, they are marked by theatrical pauses and silences, comedic timing, provocative imagery, witty dialogue, ambiguity, irony, and menace (“Biobibliographical Notes”). Thematically ambiguous, they raise complex issues of individual human identity oppressed by social forces, the power of language, and vicissitudes of memory. Like his work, Pinter has been considered complex and contradictory (Billington, Harold Pinter 388). Although Pinter publicly eschewed applying the term “political theatre” to his own work in 1981, he began writing overtly political plays in the mid-1980s, reflecting his own heightening political interests and changes in his personal life. This “new direction” in his work and his “Leftist” political activism stimulated additional critical debate about Pinter’s politics. Pinter, his work, and his politics have been the subject of voluminous critical commentary (“Biobibliographical Notes”; Merritt, Pinter in Play; Grimes).
Pinter was the recipient of nineteen honorary degrees and numerous other honors and awards, including the Nobel Prize in Literature and the French Légion d’honneur. Academic institutions and performing arts organizations have devoted symposia, festivals, and celebrations to honouring him and his work, in recognition of his cultural influence and achievements across genres and media. In awarding Pinter the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005, instigating some public controversy and criticism, the Swedish Academy cited him for being “generally regarded as the foremost representative of British drama in the second half of the 20th century.” He received his nineteenth honorary degree from the Central School of Speech and Drama in absentia due to illness on 10 December 2008. On 25 December, his wife, Lady Antonia Fraser, announced that he had died, from cancer, on 24 December 2008.
THE ROOM (1957); THE BIRTHDAY PARTY (1957); THE DUMB WAITER (1957); A SLIGHT ACHE (1958); THE HOTHOUSE (1958); THE CARETAKER (1959); SKETCHES: The Black and White; Trouble in the Works (1959); Last to Go; Request Stop; Special Offer (1960); That’s Your Trouble; That’s All; Interview(1964); A NIGHT OUT (1959); NIGHT SCHOOL (1960); THE DWARFS (1960); THE COLLECTION (1961); THE LOVER (1962); TEA PARTY (1964); THE HOMECOMING (1964); THE BASEMENT (1966); LANDSCAPE (1967); SILENCE (1968); SKETCH Night (1969); OLD TIMES (1970); MONOLOGUE (1972); NO MAN’S LAND (1974); BETRAYAL (1978); FAMILY VOICES (1980); and with VICTORIA STATION and A KIND OF ALASKA under the title OTHER PLACES (1982); SKETCH Precisely (1983); ONE FOR THE ROAD (1984); MOUNTAIN LANGUAGE (1988); THE NEW WORLD ORDER (1991); PARTY TIME (1991); MOONLIGHT (1993); ASHES TO ASHES (1996); CELEBRATION (1999); SKETCH Press Conference (2002); SKETCH Apart From That (2006).
THE CARETAKER (1962); THE PUMPKIN EATER (1963); THE SERVANT (1963); THE QUILLER MEMORANDUM (1965); ACCIDENT (1966); THE BIRTHDAY PARTY (1967); THE GO-BETWEEN (1969); THE HOMECOMING (1969); LANGRISHE GO DOWN (1970) adapted for TV 1978; A LA RECHERCHE DU TEMPS PERDU (1972) not filmed; THE LAST TYCOON(1974); THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT’S WOMAN (1980); BETRAYAL (1981); VICTORY (1982) not filmed; TURTLE DIARY (1984); THE HANDMAID’S TALE (1987); REUNION (1988); THE HEAT OF THE DAY (1988); THE COMFORT OF STRANGERS (1989); THE TRIAL (1989); THE DREAMING CHILD (1997) not filmed; THE TRAGEDY OF KING LEAR (2000) not filmed; SLEUTH (2007)
THE COLLECTION (with Peter Hall) (1962); THE LOVER and THE DWARFS (1963); THE BIRTHDAY PARTY (1964); Robert Shaw’s THE MAN IN THE GLASS BOOTH London (1967) and New York (1968); James Joyce’s EXILES (1970); Simon Gray ‘s BUTLEY (1971); John Hopkin’s NEXT OF KIN (1974); Simon Gray ‘s OTHERWISE ENGAGED London (1975) and New York (1977); William Archibald’s THE INNOCENTS New York (1976); Noel Coward’s BLITHE SPIRIT (1976); Simon Gray ‘s THE REAR COLUMN (1978); Simon Gray ‘s CLOSE OF PLAY (1979); THE HOTHOUSE (1980); Simon Gray ‘s QUARTERMAINE’S TERMS (1981); Robert East’s INCIDENT AT TULSE HILL (1981); Jean Giraudoux’s THE TROJAN WAR WILL NOT TAKE PLACE (1983); Simon Gray ‘s THE COMMON PURSUIT (1984); ONE FOR THE ROAD (1984); Tennessee Williams’ SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH (1985); Donald Freed’s CIRCE AND BRAVO (1986); Jane Stanton Hitchcock’s VANILLA (1990); PARTY TIME and MOUNTAIN LANGUAGE (1991); THE NEW WORLD ORDER (1991); David Mamet’s OLEANNA (1993); LANDSCAPE (1994); Ronald Harwood ‘s TAKING SIDES (1995); Reginald Rose’s TWELVE ANGRY MEN (1996); ASHES TO ASHES 1996; Simon Gray ‘s LIFE SUPPORT 1997; ASHES TO ASHES in Italy (1997); ASHES TO ASHES in France (1998); Simon Gray ‘s THE LATE MIDDLE CLASSES (1999); CELEBRATION and THE ROOM (2000); NO MAN’S LAND (2001); Simon Gray ‘s THE OLD MASTERS (2004)
Simon Gray’s THE REAR COLUMN (1980); THE HOTHOUSE (1982); MOUNTAIN LANGUAGE (1988); PARTY TIME (1992); LANDSCAPE (1995); ASHES TO ASHES Italy (1998).
Toured Ireland with Anew McMaster repertory company (1951-52) Donald Wolfit Company, King’s Theatre, Hammersmith (1953-54) Rep at Chesterfield, Whitby, Huddersfield, Colchester, Bournemouth, Torquay, Birmingham, Palmers Green, Worthing, Richmond (1953-59) THE CARETAKER – Mick Duchess Theatre (1960) THE HOMECOMING – Lenny Watford Theatre (1969) OLD TIMES – Deeley Los Angeles (1985) NO MAN’S LAND – Hirst Almeida & Comedy Theatre (1992-3) THE HOTHOUSE – Roote Chichester Festival Theatre, Comedy Theatre (1995) LOOK EUROPE! – Tramp, Almeida Theatre (1997) THE COLLECTION – Harry, Gate Theatre, Dublin (1997) & Donmar Warehouse (1998), ONE FOR THE ROAD – Nicolas, New Ambassadors Theatre, London (2001) & Lincoln Center Festival, New York, USA (2001), SKETCH Press Conference, Royal National Theatre (2002)
THE SERVANT – Society Man (1964) ACCIDENT – Bell (1967) THE RISE AND RISE OF MICHAEL RIMMER – Steven Hench (1970) TURTLE DIARY – Man in Bookshop (1985) MOJO – Sam Ross (1997) MANSFIELD PARK – Sir Thomas (1998) THE TAILOR OF PANAMA – Uncle Benny (2000)
A NIGHT OUT – Seeley (1960) HUIS CLOS by Jean Paul Sartre – Garcia (1965) THE BASEMENT – Stott (1967) ROGUE MALE by Clive Donner – Lawyer (1976) LANGRISHE, GO DOWN – Shannon (1978) THE BIRTHDAY PARTY – Goldberg (1987) BREAKING THE CODE by Hugh Whitemore – John Smith (1997) CATASTROPHE by Samuel Beckett – Director (2000) WIT by Margaret Edson – Father (2000)
PLAYERS – Narrated by Harold Pinter with Edward de Souza FOCUS ON FOOTBALL POOLS and FOCUS ON LIBRARIES (1951) HENRY VIII – Abergevenny (1951) MR PUNCH PASSES – Narrator (1951) A NIGHT OUT – Seeley (1960) THE EXAMINATION – Reading (1962) TEA PARTY – Reading (1964) MONOLOGUE – Man (1975) ROUGH FOR RADIO by Samuel Beckett – Man (1976) BETRAYAL – Robert (1990) THE PROUST SCREENPLAY – The voice of the Screenplay (1995) I HAD TO GO SICK by Julian McLaren Ross – Reading (1998) MOONLIGHT – Andy (2000) A SLIGHT ACHE – Edward (2000)
CBE, 1966; Shakespeare Prize (Hamburg) 1970; European Prize for Literature (Vienna) 1973; Pirandello Prize (Palermo) 1980; Chilean Order of Merit, 1992; The David Cohen British Literature Prize 1995; Honorary fellow of Queen Mary College, London; Laurence Olivier Special Award 1996; Molire d’Honneur, Paris in recognition of his life’s work, 1997; Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence 1997; BAFTA Fellowship 1997; Companion of Literature, RSL 1998; The Critics’ Circle Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts 2000; Brianza Poetry Prize, Italy 2000; South Bank Show Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts, 2001; S.T. Dupont Golden Pen Award 2001 for a Lifetime’s Distinguished Service to Literature; ‘Premio Fiesole ai Maestri del Cinema’, Italy, 2001; World Leaders Award, Toronto, Canada, 2001; Hermann Kesten Medallion for outstanding commitment on behalf of persecuted and imprisoned writers, awarded by German P.E.N., Berlin, Germany, 2001; Companion of Honour for services to Literature, 2002; Diploma “ad Honorem”, Teatro Filodrammatici, Milan , Italy 2004; Evening Standard Theatre Awards, 50th Anniversary – Special Award, 2004; Wilfred Owen Poetry Prize, 2005; Frank Kafka Prize, 2005; Nobel Prize for Literature, 2005; European Theatre Prize, 2006; Serbian Foundation Prize, 2006; St George Plaque of the City of Kragujevac, 2006; Legion d’Honneur, 2007
Honorary degrees from the Universities of Reading 1970; Birmingham 1971; Glasgow 1974; East Anglia 1974; Stirling 1979; Brown (Rhode Island) 1982; Hull 1986; Sussex 1990; East London 1994; Sofia (Bulgaria) 1995; Bristol 1998; Goldmiths, University of London 1999; University of Aristotle, Thessaloniki 2000; University of Florence, Italy, 2001; University of Turin, Italy, 2002 and National University of Ireland, Dublin 2004; University of Leeds 2007.