By Steph Lam
The upcoming performance of Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party is set to be refreshing and engaging, especially with its interesting choice of performance space, the Empty Shop, which promises an intimate audience experience. I spoke to various members of the cast and crew to find out a little bit more about the show.
Director, Dom Williams, talks about the challenges the actors’ face in interpreting Pinter in the small space of the Empty Shop, which limits their movements onstage. But, Williams explains, this sense of claustrophobia is one of the effects that he is looking for.
Regarding the more practical aspects of staging, the production team emphasizes the challenges of manipulating entrances and exits for the actors, as they are working with only one exit!
Costumes and Lighting:
Costuming is set to be fabulous, says Williams, as a result of the work of Rosie Spence, and it will bring out the nuances of identity in the play well. The lighting is also likely to impress, managed by experienced Tech Director, Alex Turner, who was involved in Hild Bede Theatre’s Chicago, amongst other productions.
Pinter’s plays often balance precariously between comedy and darker moods and Williams thinks that the comedic moments in The Birthday Party will come across with a kind of ‘shock factor.’ His take on the play will aim for a more naturalistic angle, although that is limited by inherent qualities within The Birthday Party, such as severe fluctuations in characters’ attitudes and Pinter’s deliberately uncomfortable use of ritualistic overtones.
Different interpretations of The Birthday Party have been looked into in depth by Williams and the cast and they have even conversed with Professor Regan from Durham’s English Department on the topic, looking at the Biblical and ritualistic influences of the play. The cast definitely seem clued up!
An intimate audience:
Producer, Laura Chapman, stresses the one-of-a-kind theatre experience that they are offering because of the small size of the space and audience numbers, highly different to the traditional Durham Student Theatre play in the larger Assembly Rooms. Williams mentions the Donmar Warehouse as an example of the kind of thrust-stage effect and audience intimacy that they are emulating.
So it seems that this is a rare chance to get an up-close audience experience of the intense emotional atmosphere in Pinter’s The Birthday Party. With limited audience numbers each night, it would be a good idea to book early!
‘The Birthday Party’ will be performed at the Empty Shop from June 24th to 26th.
Photograph: Annie Fairchild