I watched Harold Pinter’s Celebration last night, performed on More4 by a very starry cast, including Michael Gambon playing his usual foul-mouthed beefy bully.*
I tried to watch it with an open mind. Honestly I did. After all, I like some of Pinter’s stuff. (Well, I liked the film of The Go-Between and I can tolerate The Birthday Party in the same numb sort of way that I can tolerate watching endless pile-ups in a show called something like America’s Most Shocking Car Crashes 7).
I tried to wipe from my mind the knowledge that this was a man with political views so ridiculous that, as with death and the sun, it is impossible to look directly at them.
But sadly, Celebration was written in 1999, so the Nobel-winning Pinter was well on the way to the sterile senility that produced his sub-sixth form 'anti-war' 'poems'.
Oh God it was bad. A really, stinkingly bad exercise in empty misanthropy: a forty minute eternity of inadequate Beckett-imitation. There was one saving grace: a waiter played by Stephen Rea who kept ‘interjecting’ with amusing tall-tales about his grandfather. But Pinter managed to ruin even this by giving him a vacuous soliloquy to end the piece. Best avoided, really.
*see also The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover; The Singing Detective etc. (I’m only surprised he didn’t announce his inauguration as Albus Dumbledore by telling the gathered pupils of Hogwarts to “Shut your mouths, you ‘orrible f***** wizard c****”).