The Birthday Party, in Pinter’s own retrospective musing, is described as “a deeply political play about the need for an individual’s resistance”. However, the Oxford production of this classic of the modern stage has not quite managed to get across this theme from the very outset. There is a certain sliver of menace sensed by the viewers right from the initial stages, and yet this fear and foreboding comes to the forefront too little, too late, at a point in the play when the narrative has lost the grip on the viewers. Perhaps a better use of directorial techniques and increased editing would have prevented this effect on the audience.
The individual performances were the highlights. Glesni Ann Euros has done justice to her character, Meg, a voracious woman goosing over Stanley, the main protagonist. The facial expressions, the body language, the gait, the varying voice intonations were all quite demanding for her character and Glesninian did a wonderful job of it.
But it is Will Hatcher, who plays Mr. Goldberg, who is absolutely mesmerizing. I would call his performance the best performance I have seen in my four terms at Oxford. Mr. Goldberg is a mysterious official, bordering on sinister and menacing, yet charming and well spoken, and this is a role that Will has slid into at ease. While Mr. Goldberg represents the greyness of the state, its principles and social conformism, Will has also managed to get across the suave, smooth talking, man-in-charge persona; ‘the slickness’ of Mr. Goldberg across outstandingly well. His performance is a tribute to the intricate character created by Harold Pinter.
The use of lighting is rather unremarkable, but the props on the set are detailed, effectively setting the scene of a 20th century living room. This play is well worth a watch, if only for some stupendous performances.