No Man's Land

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A: Harold Pinter Pf: 1975, London Pb: 1975 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Hirst's home, north London, 1970s C: 4mHirst and Spooner, two men in their sixties who have met in a pub, are drinking and conversing in a large room in Hirst's ‘well but sparely furnished’ home near Hampstead Heath. They exchange reminiscences, drunkenly and unenthusiastically rehearsing their moderate success as writers, and discussing their mothers, wives, and friends. Spooner even suggests that he may have seduced Hirst's wife. Eventually, Hirst is so drunk that he collapses on the floor and is led out by Briggs, one of his servants. Foster, a somewhat younger servant who at first claims to be Hirst's son, seems to resent Spooner's presence, switches off the lights, and locks the door, leaving Spooner alone in the dark. The next morning, Spooner is still alone in the room. Hirst reappears and behaves as though he has known Spooner for many years and denies that Spooner had an affair with his wife, although he, Hirst, may have seduced Spooner's wife. Finally, the conversation of the two men and the servants slows to a standstill, and Hirst, picking up on a comment by Hirst the previous evening, says: ‘You are in no man's land. Which never changes, never grows older, but which remains forever, icy and silent.’ Hirst answers: ‘I'll drink to that.’ The lights fade to darkness.

A: Harold Pinter Pf: 1975, London Pb: 1975 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Hirst's home, north London, 1970s C: 4m

This play with virtually no action contemplates old age and the virtual death that precedes it with a bleakness reminiscent of Beckett. However, the recognizable domestic setting, the status games between the men, and the way in which memory is invoked and mistrusted is typical of Pinter. The premiere benefited from having Ralph Richardson playing Hirst and John Gielgud performing Spooner.

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards) — Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).

Reference entries

Harold Pinter (1930—2008) English dramatist, actor, and director

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