A cryptic thriller complete with lots of macabre laughs from Pinter’s pen

The Birthday Party coming soon to Devonshire Park Theatre. Photo by Sheila Burnett
The Birthday Party coming soon to Devonshire Park Theatre. Photo by Sheila Burnett

T he highly acclaimed London Classic Theatre return to the Devonshire Park Theatre Eastbourne with a new production of the Harold Pinter classic, The Birthday Party, for a strictly limited run from Monday 11 to Wednesday 13 April.

In a shabby boarding house in a small, familiar, English seaside town. An elderly couple take care of a solitary guest, pianist Stanley, who rarely ventures out. The arrival of two enigmatic strangers seems to offer a welcome distraction from their mundane existence. But when an impromptu, seemingly innocent birthday party abruptly turns into a deadly game of cat and mouse, there are horrifying repercussions.

By turns, cryptic thriller and macabre comedy, The Birthday Party was Harold Pinter’s first major work and is among the most unusual and absorbing of his plays. London Classic Theatre presents the first significant touring revival of the twenty-first century, promising to bring this ground-breaking classic to fresh and exhilarating life.

The company includes Jonathan Ashley (Goldberg), Gareth Bennett-Ryan (Stanley), Cheryl Kennedy (Meg), Ged McKenna (Petey), Declan Rodgers (McCann) and Imogen Wilde (Lulu). Playwright, director, actor, poet and political activist, Harold Pinter wrote 29 plays and in 2005, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The Birthday Party which is now one of the most popular Pinter plays was initially a commercial flop, opening to almost universally negative reviews at the Lyric Hammersmith where it promptly closed just 8 performances later. Theatrical legend records that just 6 people attended the mid-week matinee. However a belated rave review in the Sunday Times helped revived the plays fortunes, in 1961 it was adapted for the TV and the Royal Shakespeare Company mounted a revival of it in 1964.

Whilst the actual location of the Seaside town is never referred to, there is a possibility that it could have been influenced by a visit that Pinter made to Eastbourne while on tour as he related a tale to his official biographer about an experience at an uncomfortable boarding house where he met an unforgettable landlady and a pianist.

The Birthday Party at the Devonshire Park Theatre Eastbourne, Monday 11 -Wednesday 13 April, nightly performances 7.45pm and Wednesday matinee at 2.30pm, tickets from £15.50 to book or for more information call the box office on 01323 412000 or online www.eastbournetheatres.co.uk.