Harold Pinter. The creator of the Pinter Pause. One of theatres most famous playwrights from the 1960s. I just read one of his plays for my Theatre 381 class and I am thoroughly confused. Ah, Pinter never fails to confuse. His plays are like onions. You have to peel away the layers to find the true meaning of the text. On the outside the play is a little boring as it’s just talk. But once you get down to the lower layers you get to the real meaning of the play. Actually I think a better comparison would be like chocolate cake. The top layer is the frosting. Nice to look at, sweet, some sprinkles maybe if you’re feeling adventurous. Then the deeper layers. They are full of all the decadent chocolate goo that you want and crave.
The Room by Harold Pinter is the play I just read. The play’s setting is in a room (shocker!) in what I think is a boarding house. Rose and Bert are on stage. Bert is reading a magazine and Rose is trying to make conversation with him. The first four and half pages are of her talking to Bert and him not responding. There are a lot of pauses. Pauses are very important in Pinter plays because they allow the audience to think of the conversation not being said. Ever had an awkward silence where no one is willing to point out the elephant in the room? That is a Pinter Pause
I think Rose is lonely. She wants to make conversation with her husband but he is not responding to her. She makes statements that he could respond to but he doesn’t so she responds for it. For example she is asking him if he is going out and when he doesn’t answer she says that he won’t be long. Rose’s excessive talking could be her way of trying to make herself feel a little more powerful even if it’s not working. Bert holds the power in the scene because of his non-responses.
The landlord comes in for a while and Rose and him chat for a while although it is like they are actually holding conversations with themselves while the others are in the room. They respond to themselves in a way… hard to explain. Rose could be talking about something, then the landlord, Mr. Kidd, will respond with something else and Rose will keep going on with her subject and then Mr. Kidd will go on with his subject… Not very productive. Breaks the maxims of conversation.
Mr. Kidd leaves, and then once Bert leaves the scene (never says where he’s going) two more enter the scene. They are a young couple looking for the landlord so they could rent a room. They mention there is a man living in the basement room. Rose has an obssession with the basement room and she’s proud of herself that they don’t live there. She wants to know who does live there. I’m not sure why she wants to know so bad. Maybe she’s just nosey. Who knows?
The young couple have some marital issues. They bicker about everything. The man doesn’t want to sit, then when he “perches” on the corner of the table the woman makes a stink about him sitting and he says he never and yatta yatta. I’m sure they have some importance to the play but we need to peel away the layers to figure it out.
Rose eventually meets the man in the basement. His name is Riley and he says he knows her but we don’t know how he knows her except that he’s asking her to come home and that Rose’s father wants her home. He calls her Sal. Maybe she ran away from home or something but that would be too cliché for Pinter. There’s always something a little more sinister going on with this man’s plays. Maybe Rose is a prostitute…. could be.
Anyways, once I get the chance to discuss this in my class I will do another post with the real explanations of this play. It’s hard to understand at first but after getting to talk about it it usually makes sense.
You should try reading the play, Internetland, and see if it makes any sense to you.