West End stars consult our Harold Pinter Archive
We’re going a bit showbiz at the Library this week. Many thanks to my colleague Zoë Wilcox, Curator of Modern Literary and Theatrical Manuscripts for this blog!
Actors Kristin Scott Thomas, Rufus Sewell and Lia Williams visited St Pancras last week to prepare for a forthcoming West End production of Harold Pinter’s Old Times. The cast and director Ian Rickson came to the Library to look at drafts of the play and correspondence from the Pinter Archive.
Written in 1970 following a depressing spell of writer’s block, Old Times is a play about a 40-something couple, Kate and Deeley, and Kate’s former flatmate, Anna, whose visit provokes conflicting memories of the time when the three first knew each other.
Pinter was famous for refusing to comment on the back-stories of his characters and Ian Rickson had a few initial qualms about showing the cast the Archive, but was reassured by the fact that Pinter himself had made the decision to deposit his papers at the Library to enable this kind of research.
A read-through of the two earliest drafts of the play unearthed plenty of useful character detail to take back to the rehearsal room. The actors were also struck by the vigorous crossings out, under-linings and marginal notes that reveal Pinter’s thought process as he developed the play, making the precise nature of the characters’ relationships less explicit in order to tighten the dramatic structure.
Lia Williams, who will alternate playing the parts of Kate and Anna with Kristin Scott Thomas, described the session as ‘the most fascinating thing I’ve ever done’.
Old Times opens at the Harold Pinter Theatre on 12 January 2013 and will run until 6 April. It will be the first of Pinter’s plays to be performed at the theatre formerly known as the Comedy since it was renamed in his honour last year.