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The Harold Pinter Theatre (formerly The Comedy Theatre), is a London West End theatre, and opened on Panton Street in the City of Westminster on 15 October 1881. It was known then as the Royal Comedy Theatre.
The Harold Pinter Theatre: History
The theatre was designed by Thomas Verity and built in just six months in painted stucco stone and brick. By 1884 it was known as just the Comedy Theatre.
In 1883, the successful operetta Falka had its London première at The Harold Pinter Theatre, and in 1885, Erminie did the same. The Harold Pinter's reputation grew through World War I when Charles Blake Cochran and André Charlot presented their famous revue shows. In the mid-1950s West End's Harold Pinter Theatre underwent major reconstruction and re-opened in December 1955, the auditorium remains essentially that of 1881, with three tiers of horseshoe shaped balconies.
The Harold Pinter Theater was notable for the role it played in overturning stage censorship by establishing the New Watergate Club in 1956, under producer Anthony Field. The outdated Theatres Act 1843 still required scripts to be submitted for approval by the Lord Chamberlain's Office. Formation of the club allowed plays that had been banned due to language or subject matter to be performed under 'club' conditions. Plays produced in this way at The Harold Pinter included the UK premieres of Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge, Robert Anderson's Tea and Sympathy and Tennessee Williams' Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. The law was not revoked until 1968, but in the late 1950s there was a loosening of conditions in theatre censorship, the club was dissolved and Peter Shaffer's Five Finger Exercise premiered to a public audience.
The Harold Pinter Theatre was Grade II listed by English Heritage in June 1972.
The Homecoming, No-man's Land, Moonlight, The Hothouse and The Caretaker have all been presented at The Harold Pinter in recent years. Maureen Lipman has also graced The Harold Pinter stage, starring in Alan Plater's highly acclaimed comedy, Peggy For You, but the theatre's two biggest successes were The Caretaker starring Michael Gambon in 2000 and an eight week sell out of Little Malcolm and his Struggle Against the Eunuchs in 1999, starring Ewan McGregor and directed by Denis Lawson, which smashed all box office records. More recently, Francesca Annis and Anthony Andrews have starred in Ibsen's Ghosts and 2004 saw the much lauded revival of RC Sherriff's Journey's End and a successful run of The Old Masters by Simon Gray, starring Edward Fox and Peter Bowles This production was directed by Harold Pinter, after whom the then Comedy Theatre was of course renamed The Harold Pinter Theatre.
In January 2005, Kim Cattrall starred in Peter Hall's London production of Whose Life Is It Anyway? by Brian Clark, followed by Tom Courtenay in Brian Friel's The Home Place and Joseph Fiennes and Francesca Annis starred in Epitaph for George Dillon by John Osborne and Anthony Creighton. The Harold Pinter Theatre London has also played host to Steptoe and Son, Michael Frayn's Donkey's Years, the Rocky Horror Show, and the hilarious high-flying comedy, Boeing-Boeing.
As of 8th of September 2011, The Comedy Theatre was renamed as The Harold Pinter Theatre.
The Harold Pinter Theatre: Recent Productions
Donkeys' Years (9 May 2006 - 15 December 2006) by Michael Frayn, starring Samantha Bond, David Haig, Mark Addy and James Dreyfus
The Rocky Horror Show (18 December 2006 - 29 January 2007) by Richard O'Brien, starring David Bedella and Suzanne Shaw
Boeing-Boeing (5 February 2007 - 5 January 2008) by Marc Camoletti, starring Roger Allam, Frances de la Tour, Elena Roger, Mark Rylance, Daisy Beaumont, Tamzin Outhwaite, Amy Nuttall, Rhea Perlman, Jean Marsh, Jennifer Ellison, Tracey-Ann Oberman and Kevin McNally
The Lover/The Collection (12 January 2008 - 3 May 2008) by Harold Pinter, starring Timothy West, Gina McKee, Charlie Cox and Richard Coyle
Dickens Unplugged (23 May 2008 - 29 June 2008) by Adam Long
Sunset Boulevard (4 December 2008 - 30 May 2009) by Andrew Lloyd Webber, directed by Craig Revel Horwood
Too Close to the Sun (24 July - 8 August 2009), world premiere of a new musical about Ernest Hemingway
Prick Up Your Ears (30 September - 6 December 2009) by Simon Bent, starring Matt Lucas and Chris New
La Bête (8 July - 4 September 2010) by David Hirson, starring Mark Rylance, David Hyde Pierce and Joanna Lumley
Birdsong (28 September 2010 - 15 January 2011) based on the book by Sebastian Faulks, starring Ben Barnes
The Children's Hour (22 January - 30 April 2011) by Lillian Hellman, starring Keira Knightley
Betrayal (27 May - 20 August 2011) by Harold Pinter, starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Douglas Henshall and Ben Miles
Death and the Maiden (24 October 2011 - 21 January 2012) by Ariel Dorfman starring Thandie Newton, Tom Goodman-Hill and Anthony Calf
Absent Friends (26 January - 14 April 2012) by Alan Ayckbourn
South Downs and The Browning Version (24 April - 21 July 2012) by Terence Rattigan, starring Nicholas Farrell, Anna Chancellor and Alex Lawther
A Chorus of Disapproval (27 September 2012 - 5 January 2013) by Alan Ayckbourn, starring Rob Brydon, Nigel Harman and Ashley Jensen
Old Times (31 January 2013 - 6 April 2013) by Harold Pinter, starring Rufus Sewell, Kristin Scott Thomas and Lia Williams
The Harold Pinter Theatre: Current Productions
Merrily We Roll Along (23rd April - 27 July 2013) Transfer of the hit Menier Chocolate Factory producion directed by Maria Friedman
Chimerica (6th August - 19 October 2013) Written by Lucy Kirkwood (NSFW, Royal Court), with ‘breakneck direction’ by Lyndsey Turner (Posh, Royal Court and West End).
Mojo (September 2013 - ) Starring Brendan Coyle (Downton Abbey, The Weir), Rupert Grint (Harry Potter, Driving Lessons), Daniel Mays (Made in Dagenham, Mrs Biggs, The Winterling) and Ben Whishaw (Skyfall, The Hour, Peter and Alice).
Opening the Pinter at the Pinter season is a dynamic collection of Harold Pinter’s most potent and dangerous political plays.
The incendiary One for The Road is Pinter at his most terrifying. A ruthless government official interrogates a dissident and his family, but is the torturer more tortured than his victims? The New World Order explores how the abuse of power is legitimised in the name of freedom and democracy, as two brutal interrogators prepare to inflict their terrible punishment on a blind-folded insurgent. Pinter investigates the suppression of ideas and the supposed threat of non-conformity in Mountain Language: a group of captives attempt to find a voice when their shared language is banned by the state.
The evening culminates with Ashes to Ashes, a richly atmospheric and compelling play in which the dark nightmare of human atrocity infiltrates a couple’s living room. Directed by award-winning actress and long-time Pinter collaborator, Lia Williams.
About the Pinter at the Pinter season
The Jamie Lloyd Company presents a complete season of Harold Pinter's one-act plays to celebrate the legacy of the Nobel Prize-winning British writer on the 10th anniversary of his death. This unique theatrical event will play at the Harold Pinter Theatre from 6 September 2018 to 23 February 2019, and promises an unforgettable celebration of the "most influential, provocative and poetic dramatist of his generation" (The Guardian).
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