No Man’s Land – To be or not to be

Pinter.To be or not to be? No Man’s Land
A really great night at the theatre. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart every bit as good as Gielgud and Richardson that I remember all those years ago at the National in Pinter’s extraordinary masterpiece…… Unforgettable…….
……. opening the paper on the train home I see it has been designated five stars by Benedict Nightingale …….not enough say I …it is in the stratosphere already………. until 17th December …well worth the 7am queue for seats in the front row.
I had no idea until read the excellent programme at home that the names of the characters are all based on passed cricketers – hence the quote of Pinter :” cricket is the greatest thing that God created on earth………certainly greater than sex,although sex isn’t too bad either”………..my father would be pleased to know that …he was an Umpire at Lords and lived for cricket.
A typical Pinter statement that it is what you read into it ……..there are no definite things: Is it past, present, future?Is it real or was it a figment of our imagination? ……..he aims to stimulate so there are no definite answers. When Patrick Stewart asked Pinter to explain if a character was Welsh in The Birthday Party…….Pinter talked all around it and in the end said its all in the play dear boy………..
Infact it was in Italy in the 1970’s when the Italian National Theatre at Teatro Argentina presented Old Times directed by Luchino Visconti.
It is a very ambiguous trio :two women and a man .
Lots of unanswered questions and many short one word conversations,insinuations,accusations……a word here and there with pregnant all very meaningful even menacing pauses.
Visconti decided that there must have been a lesbian relationship going on ….could be …..but Pinter had no intention of deciding how the audience should interpret the sparse words that passed from one to another .
When Pinter came to see the play in Rome and saw on stage the decision Visconti had taken on his behalf , he stopped the show and sued him.
There was a long drawn out legal battle for years that Pinter won!
We presented the play in Rome in my theatre immediately the rights became free again. Pinter trusted us and we did not let him down.
Ileana Ghione,Angiolina Quinterno,Piero Sammataro directed by a lifelong friend of my wife Massimo Scaglione who chose the music ” Smoke gets in your eyes” for the production.Very Pinteresque!
Huge success and Pinter was vindicated in Italy and left in his rightful place as one of the major writers of our time ….. he was in fact awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.
In his acceptance speech this son of a Jewish taylor from Hackney launched a scathing attack on why he thought the war in Irak was such a mistake.Well worth reading!
He refused to go to the USA whilst the Bushes were in power.
For Pinter was very much his own man as his masterly writings reveal
Ian Mc Kellen was superb tonight. So much so that he was not even recognisable at first ……All strange little details: a slight twitch ,a glance ,a sly smile that could mean anything ……….. This is the world of Pinter…read into it what you will.
Patrick Stewart too ….not a word from him for the first half hour ..but glances that spoke louder than words.
Both actors on stage for almost two hours.
Of course when they got on to comparing notes of the girls they had seduced in their student days all hell let loose .
Spooner(Mc Kellen) the underdog was put in his place by Hirst the self made successful man.
Here are all the famous lines that makes this play,in the end , so unforgettable ….a bit like Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s” Importance….”.
Lovely piece in the programme from Gielgud about the rather vague Richardson acceptance of the part:
“I’m going to do this new play by Pinter”Sir John told me.
“It’s with Ralph Richardson .I was a bit worried he wouldn’t accept the part as there’s a little dirty language in it and Ralph’s a bit prim and unworldly”
What sort of language I asked.”Oh male members being sucked in the mouth and that sort of thing” he said vaguely.
Then:”Ralph phoned and told me he’d accepted”
Wonderful Ralphie,but what about the dirty language? The male members being sucked?Richardson’s response was reassuring.
“Perfectly all right,cockie.Pure fantasy.Couldn’t happen in real life.”
That is Pinter and this performance in town until the 17th December should not be missed. There won’t be anything like it again for a long long time I am sure.
Well worth the queue at 7 am in the morning for front row day tickets

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