In 1957, when he was twenty-seven, Harold Pinter sat among the audience for his very first play. It was ‘a remarkable experience’, he tells an interviewer here. How? ‘Well,’ he says, ‘I wanted to piss very badly throughout the whole thing, and at the end I dashed out behind the bicycle shed.’
That is vintage Pinter – comic, sardonic, shockingly real. And something more, which this book brings out better than anything else I have ever read about Pinter: deeply English. I don’t just mean lavatorial, but hanging out a No Entry sign as soon as anyone comes too close; using words not to communicate but to cover up, like his characters. Is there anything more English than that?
Yes, two things – Shakespeare and cricket. And Pinter, Ian Smith tells us, loves them both. In his introduction, Smith does full justice to the influence of Pinter’s Continental and Jewish background; but only he, perhaps, could measure Pinter’s unexpected Englishness. The two men met over cricket, and that is