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My Chat with Harold Pinter





My Chat with Harold Pinter at the Old Fire Station Oxford, on Friday, March 15, and Saturday, March 16

Review by JON LEWIS

My Chat with Harold Pinter
My Chat with Harold Pinter

MIRIAM Higgins’ third play for her company Leaning House, My Chat with Harold Pinter, is a gentle autobiographical drama about a playwright, Jen (Ashleigh Aston), with writer’s block, who summons up the spirit of one of Britain’s greatest modern dramatists, Harold Pinter, to help her finish her play.

On one level, Higgins is exploring the process of creativity, the games a writer navigates to determine plot, character, dialogue and action.

My Chat with Harold Pinter
My Chat with Harold Pinter

Pinter (Louis Pieris) is conjured up as a young man. Neat and tidy in a suit, he glides on to stage carrying a cricket bat. In real life, Pinter was reluctant to explain his plays, expecting performers and audiences alike to find their own interpretations. But this is Jen’s version of Pinter, ‘my head, my show, my Pinter’, based on her (and Higgins’) deep understanding of his plays. Higgins captures Pinter’s brusque and direct nature in the way that he politely but firmly criticises Jen for taking so long to write her play, saying ‘I took less than four days to write The Room’.

On another level, the play is about Pinter (and the audience vicariously) learning to appreciate another person’s neurodiversity. Subtly infused in the narrative are the reasons why Jen is tardy about her craft. She’s a neurodivergent writer, and Pinter must develop strategies (even if he’s a figment of Jen’s imagination) to give Jen the help she needs in the way that works best for her. They talk about her love for classical music, and his for cricket. In one delightfully comic scene, Pieris is scurrying around the stage landing on, and describing, all the positions a cricketer can take while fielding.

My Chat with Harold Pinter
My Chat with Harold Pinter

Jen enjoys reciting lists of Oscar-winning movies to calm herself but then, bingo, they both alight on a shared passion that helps bond them; the love of saying antiquated and old-fashioned words aloud. As they bat these words to each other in a game of wordplay Jen feels emboldened to share other stories with Pinter such as how she identifies each of four tinnitus buzzes as notes played within an orchestra. Convincing performances by both actors.



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