Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Pinter's No Man's Land

I think there are rather too many 20th century dramas about people killing time in limbo. I remember roughing out one myself when I was 17. Something about the 20th century experience- I'm not sure what because people were more mobile than ever before- created a fashion for these visions of rooted feebleness. I don't think the genre's worn well. For one thing one rather wants a play to have things happen in it- including a resolution. For another I'm not a Calvinist and I chafe at such a reductive view of human nature.  Why sit around day after day waiting for Godot when you really don't have to? Get up you silly buggers and move along.  If I had to preserve one example of the genre- and one is enough- it wouldn't be this late entry of Pinter's. For the record it would probably be La Charme Discrete de la Bourgeoisie because it shares my disdain for its stuckists. 

No Man's Land is an hour and a half of whimsical absurdity- like an extended Monty Python sketch- beautifully written and with touches of the expected Pinterian menace. Critics have attempted to make some sort of sense of the relationship between Hirst and Spooner, as if they had once been real people and not just the mellifluous ghosts they now are. I hardly see the point. They exist to sing to one another. Change the actors and you change the dynamic. I've been watching a recording of the legendary first production with Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud. Gielgud is sublime- a trap-mouthed reptile with honeyed tones and floppy hair- modelled I believe on W.H. Auden- but then I would happily watch Gielgud exercise his craft- his art-  in any old rot. 

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