OLD TIMES by Harold Pinter was first produced in 1971 and went on to be performed around the world. Since the beginning of the 21st Century it has been consistently revived, the play’s dark and mysterious content and subject matter seemingly striking a resonate chord with the modern zeitgeist.
The play has been interpreted in many ways. Pinter never really offered any concrete explanation; he once told Anthony Hopkins who when he was playing the character of Deeley asked Pinter to explain the ending, ‘I don’t know. Just do it’.
It is the open ambiguity of this play that fascinates me. I am mid-way into rehearsals and just letting it unfold as I work with the actors. I have some idea where I am going with it,of course, but I know that it is a journey – and where I am now may not be where I finish. That is part of what makes this play so marvelous. I want people to talk about it afterwards and discuss their own interpretation, rather than me and the actors signposting it, and simply leaving the theatre immediately forgetting the piece as if it was some sort of fast-food rubbish, and ‘where shall we go for drink?’
Currently, I see the play as a kind of power-struggle in regards to memory. Who controls memory? We will all have different perspectives and interpretations about the same experienced event. How many times has that happened to you? That you get surprised by what another person remembers about a mutually shared experience.
Pinter wrote, ‘The past is what you remember, imagine your remember, convince yourself you remember, or pretend to remember’. This is explored in OLD TIMES.
He also wrote, ‘A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false’.
I am reminded of other ‘memory’ plays that seem to connect with OLD TIMES; such as Sartre’s IN CAMERA, and Tennessee Williams’ THE GLASS MENAGERIE. THE GLASS MENAGERIE opens with the character Tom stating, ‘The play is memory. Being a memory play, it is dimly lighted, it is sentimental, it is not realistic. In memory everything seem to happen to music’. This is true for OLD TIMES, with the importance of music from the 1930s playing a significant part; however, it s not ‘dimly lighted’ but rather glaringly bright as if one is in kind of surgical waiting room. In regard to it being ‘realistic’ or not, Pinter wrote about his work, ‘What goes on in my plays is realistic, but what I’m doing is not realism’. Delightfully ambiguous.
This production is the launch of a new professional company in Adelaide. It is only a short season, playing 6-9 APRIL in the SPACE THEATRE at the ADELAIDE FESTIVAL CENTRE. I would like to thank the FESTIVAL CENTRE, CARLA ZAMPATTI, as well as the STAR THEATRE Adelaide, for their generous and kind support. Like the play itself, my business partner and myself are taking a leap into the unknown. Our intentions are good, we are doing this for the art and for Adelaide actors – hopefully you will come along and support us – BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW!!!