The Pinter Pause

Many elements come together when we put on a production, most obviously the work of the actors, directors, designers and crew. But sometimes it’s the absence of something that gives an effect its particular power.

Light and darkness, movement and stillness, sound and silence each gain significance from their counterparts. A stage bathed in light all the time would afford no opportunity for the emphasis created by a single spotlight. The same is true of silence; without it, meaningful moments would be lost in a general wash of sound.

This is particularly true of the plays of Nobel laureate Harold Pinter, whose famous “Pinter pauses” have given new meaning to the importance of silence. Pauses run through all of Pinter’s work – and they occur in The Homecoming a whopping 224 times.

The “Pinter pause” is typically found partway through a line of speech. It’s not a prolonged or pregnant pause of the kind that’s often used to draw attention to a particular moment. Rather, it’s a brief pause that’s used to reflect the natural rhythm of speech. It represents the moment for thought that we all take in our daily conversations, when we pause and consider what it is we want to say.

As The Homecoming is the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s first foray into the works of Harold Pinter, why not take the opportunity to go to the Avon Theatre this season and see what the “Pinter pause” is all about? Perhaps while you’re watching, something will give you pause for thought.

As a side note, this the second time director Jennifer Tarver and actor Brian Dennehy have worked together at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. They first teamed up in 2008, when Ms Tarver directed Mr. Dennehy in Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape as part of a double bill at the Studio Theatre. Which brings us to a connection between these two and Harold Pinter. Check out this video to see what that connection is:

The video is Harold Pinter performing Krapp’s Last Tape.


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