This Monday night at the Devonshire Park Theatre proved a very different experience for many in the audience!  It is not hard to see why Harold Pinter’s first full-length play, The Birthday Party lasted only six performances on its London début in 1958, nearly costing the 27-year-old Pinter his career as a playwright, and why it subsequently went on to become a true theatre classic.

Undoubtedly, this is a play that every true devotee of the theatre should see and there will probably be fewer better examples than this well-cast London Classic Theatre production. Often described as a ‘comedy of menace’, this portrayal of the two sinister visitors, Goldberg and McCann, certainly endorsed this.  It is not an easy watch and rather unusually these days there is no helpful music to massage the emotions.  Indeed, the whole evening was saved by the excellent performances by the whole cast.  The audience certainly has to work hard at trying to understand the story and attempting to read behind Pinter’s symbolism is challenging – and probably impossible for, as some scholars would have you believe, the writer himself had no real idea!

It was an unusually subdued and almost shell-shocked group of Friends who waited in the bar to greet the cast after this performance.  We were told that one of them had appeared at the DPT before but it was a pleasure to meet them all and all the Friends gathered enjoyed chatting with the cast members who posed willingly for photographs and signed autographs.

Back (l-r): Cheryl Kennedy, Declan Rodgers, Jonathan Ashley Front: Ged McKenna, Imogen Wilde, Gareth Bennett-Ryan

Back (l-r): Cheryl Kennedy, Declan Rodgers, Jonathan Ashley
Front: Ged McKenna, Imogen Wilde, Gareth Bennett-Ryan

The play, we are told, was inspired by a visit that Pinter made to Eastbourne in 1954 as a young actor, under the pseudonym of David Baron, when he stayed at a somewhat down-market guest house in Ashford Road.  We hope that theatrical digs have changed dramatically over the past sixty years as the cast made their way through the streets of Eastbourne to their beds at the end of the evening!

We wish them every success for the remainder of their gruelling tour which stretches the length and breadth of Great Britain and ventures across the North Sea to both sides of the Irish border  – often stopping at venues for just one night!