Almeida Theatre, London N1
Opened 6 November, 1991

Harold Pinter has now resolved that subtlety and finesse are indulgences he can no longer afford in his ministry, and that we probably don't deserve them. The menace and atrocity in Mountain Language, and the complacent brainless power in Party Time, are all. Where once Pinter indicated sexual power imbalances, here he shows sexism. Where once he was deft with colloquial language, here he deploys "fuck" with obvious calculation, to shock, as if it were still iconoclastic.

In the new 45-minute Party Time, the revels go sickeningly on in the midst of (presumably) armed insurrection; the chat is of the "club", a club which is "inspired by a moral awareness" (SYMBOL!). At the end the missing Jimmy shuffles through a doorway flooded with blinding white light (SYMBOL!); he is the world outside that neither the party members (SYMBOL!) nor we can bear to look at directly. Pinter's political theatre has a liberal ethic but an authoritarian yoga: he wants liberty for all, but shackles us to his pronouncements on what that is and how to attain it. Yes, he achieves with this exactly what he sets out to: but the technique, though consummate, is transparent it feels like a lecture.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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