Julian Sands’ Celebration of Harold Pinter

Tuesday, 30 August, 2011

Tribute to a lauded friend

Edinburgh ’11,  Pleasance Courtyard 5th – 21st  Aug at 15.00

Urbane actor Julian Sands held the audience with ease as he introduced us to his late friend Harold Pinter and his poetic works. Initially he seemed a little stiffly English actorish, however he relaxed beautifully after the first five minutes, as did the audience, when they realised they were in deftly gentle, humorous hands, addressing their relationship with one of the literary giants of our time.

Julian Sands had the great good fortune to work intimately with Harold Pinter between 2002 and his untimely death in December 2008.  His reflections, commentaries and anecdotes are drawn from their time together, Sands reads Pinter’s little known poetry with the authority which comes from being tutored by Pinter himself. He was asked by Pinter to read his poetry when a throat problem made it impossible for him to fulfil an important engagement. Theatre was Pinter’s milieu in the second half of the 20th Century. He transformed actors’ lives, as writer and director, and audiences’ perceptions of British life, with his silences and the quiet depiction of the menace emanating from apparently ordinary people.

Of the poetry and prose, about Life in the 20th Century, written by Pinter, Sands says: “In these spare but complex works there is an extraordinary revelation of subjective feeling – at once poignant, profound and often hilarious.” This is both true and a measure of the complexity the language the actor wields in this verbally illustrated picture of Harold Pinter,  the man, the romantic husband of Antonia Frazer, the politically aware being behind the plays and screenplays. He does this with humour and gravitas in equal measure.

If you want to drop a name in a gathering of splendid British actors and cause a resounding awed silence, then there could be no more illustrious person to name as friend and mentor than Harold Pinter. The warmth with which Julian Sands describes Harold the irascible man, met by himself as acolyte actor is glorious, as is his deep respect for all the writing he speaks, rather than reads, giving it all a very direct opportunity to speak to the audience. He incarnates the Harold Pinter he knew and allows us to feel the privilege of being alive while such a massively intelligent, creative person was being given free reign on London stages to transform our views about what a play could be. Harold Pinter won the   Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005 having written many a fine screenplay as well his works for stage and television. He was a life long pacifist, a splendid actor and renowned for his endless creative and physical personal energy. Julian Sands reads from other people’s words about Pinter, including those of his second wife Antonia Frazer, with whom he was very much in love from the day they met in 1980 till the day he died. Their story is illustrated through dinner parties and pillow talk creating a luminous picture of a great love well lived for all to see.

The passion of Pinter the man comes through in the poems and stories and his loss is felt more powerfully as we become aware of the integrity which ran through him like the letters run through Edinburgh Rock. The other name which might cause equal resonance in a room full of chattering actors is that of John Malkovich. The difference would be that he would be as known to the young film goers as to the theatre professionals in the room. That he is the director of this piece makes Julian Sands a tremendously fortunate man, to have known his remarkable subject and to have the insight of a remarkable actor of International stature to support him manifest this spare production of such a richly literate set of writings and personal reminiscence.

Towards the end of the production Julian reads one of Pinter’s stunning writings about war. I was moved to tears. We are all deeply fortunate to have the plays, poems, scripts and essays from which to learn and Julian Sands is the brave man who took the time to master the works and had the great opportunity befriend the writer. This combination of inspired work and great good fortune gives him the loving authority to share this well constructed, intelligent exposition of the genius of Harold Pinter with consummate skill and insight. It will tour beyond this Edinburgh Festival Première. Pinter’s work resonates with power into the 21st Century.


Cast Credits: ( alpha order ) Julian Sands – actor/ raconteur

Company Credits:  DirectorJohn Malkovich, Writer – Harold Pinter and Julian Sands, Stage Management – The Pleasance Courtyard House Staff.

© Lilian Kennedy Brzoska 2011

reviewed Thursday 11h August 011


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