There can be no doubt that the plays of Harold Pinter represent a major phenomenon in the histor of modern British theatre. Born in 1930, Pinter’s adolescence was shaped by the experience of the Second World War, a shaping made all the more intense by his Jewish identity, and there is thus a case for regarding his voice as representative of some of the most significant events of early to mid twentiethcentury Britain. These influences combined with an extraordinarily fertile intellectual environment at his school, Hackney Downs Grammar, to generate a formidable commitment to literature – especially to dramatic literature – and arguably the seeds of a later commitment to progressive politics and an anti-totalitarian and anti-racist outlook. Pinter’s theatrical development combines a similarly powerful complex of influences: his alienation from the the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, in London (RADA), placed him outside the mainstream, while the remarkable fact of his having worked with first Anew McMaster and then Donald Wolfit – two of the grandest representatives of a now largely extinct tradition of enrapturing and histrionic acting – surely seeded in Pinter a romantic attachment to the stage as well as significant skills as an actor.
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