Theatre Review: The Birthday Party at Royal Exchange

The Stage: June 2013.

>> It’s always fascinating to witness a promising director take on Pinter’s famously ambiguous ‘comedy’, as the playwright once called it. The imperative, with other classics, might be to find fresh angles and new meaning, but the great pleasure of The Birthday Party is that Pinter didn’t necessarily want it to be understood by its directors.

So it’s left to the audience to work out Pinter’s study of a play he once described as simply: “Two men come to take away another man, and do so.” And in this Manchester revival, Blanche McIntyre happily gives us that responsibility rather than telling us what The Birthday is about. There is delicious mystery here: initially, Ed Gaughan plays the hunched layabout Stanley in a childlike tantrum – to the extent where it seems almost possible that landlady Meg (played with knowing zeal by Maggie Steed) might be his mother.


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