Sunday, December 28, 2008

Politics and art ...

... Pinter and the odd literary law of geniuses with crazy politics.

Harold Pinter was the greatest English playwright of the 20th century. ... It is quite likely that, in the future, he will be seen as one of the greatest English playwrights in history.

I don't think so myself. I think Tom Stoppard is a far better playwright and in the long term I suspect Terrence Rattigan will be seen as the best English playwright of the 20th century. I'd pick Noël Coward over Pinter any day.


  1. Anonymous6:45 PM

    I agree with you totally, Frank. Pinter's early plays were original in that they had characters *saying* one thing but conveying another (bland dialogue, yet a sense of foreboding and anxiety). But Stoppard is the brilliant one, the one with a flow of language, ideas, and wit that is just incandescent.

    Many an actor loves/loved Pinter, and I can see why (for the reason above). The actor really gets to interpret the text and have fun with it. Stoppard plays, on the other hand, are just as good (sometimes better) to read as to watch.

  2. Anonymous5:47 AM

    Everyone always says nice things about you when you have just died. People even managed it about John Osborne :-). Seriously, the media picks and bitches about people when they are alive, adores them for five minutes after they die, then after some suitable interval, goes back to picking holes and bitching. After a very good number of years, someone does a retrospective and/or a bit of objectivity can enter the equation.

    Of the British playwrights of the 20th century, you also have to include Osborne, Noel Coward, J B Priestly (pretty superb in my view), Peter Shaffer and David Hare, in any full consideration of which is the best- an impossible task I think. Also, one needs to bear in mind that the two most successful modern living playwrights in Britain are Susan Hill and Willy Russell, both of whom have extraordinarily long-running plays on in the West End. Susan Hill may not really count as Woman in Black is an exception for her - she is more of a novelist. Russell however, with Educating Rita, Blood Brothers and others, has to be a contender, at least in terms of popularity.
    I have passed over Howard Brenton here but some like him.

    (I will probably think of a lot more good playwrights once I have pressed "post" here!)