Arts > Many happy returns

24 November 2016 | by D.J. Taylor

Many happy returns


Drama on 3: The Birthday Party
BBC radio 3

A good starting point for a piece of “classic” drama is to try to establish some of the preconceptions brought to it by the original audience. Seen in this light, the discovery that the original London production of Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party ran for exactly eight performances and that not even Harold Hobson’s enthusiastic Sunday Times review could save it seems perfectly understandable. Joe Punter, turning up at the Lyric, Hammersmith in 1957, would have been thoroughly baffled by this scintillating exercise in the funny-horrible – not least by the difficulty of determining how something so simultaneously comic, mundane and downright ominous works its effect.


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