- Series: Modern Plays
- Hardcover: 80 pages
- Publisher: Methuen young books; First Edition edition (June 17, 1971)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0416186505
- ISBN-13: 978-0416186505
- Package Dimensions: 7.4 x 5 x 0.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,431,113 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Old Times (Modern Plays) Hardcover – June 17, 1971
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About the Author
Harold Pinter was born in London in 1930. He lived with Antonia Fraser from 1975 and they married in 1980. In 1995 he won the David Cohen British Literature Prize, awarded for a lifetime's achievement in literature. In 1996 he was given the Laurence Olivier Award for a lifetime's achievement in theatre. In 2002 he was made a Companion of Honour for services to literature. In 2005 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and, in the same year, the Wilfred Owen Award for Poetry and the Franz Kafka Award (Prague). In 2006 he was awarded the Europe Theatre Prize and, in 2007, the highest French honour, the Legion d'honneur. He died in December 2008. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
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In Old Times, however, Printer's presentation is a good deal more complex. The overlap between existentialism and the theater of the absurd is evident, and, as a result, Old Times requires interpretation through a different lens. Old Times is distinctive because, though it is a brief play, it repeats itself throughout. Each time through more bits and pieces of memories of things as much as twenty years past are revealed, prompting reinterpretation of what we've already seen, and the reinterpretations themselves call forth more memories, or perhaps fantasies that we construe as memories of things that actually happened.
In the process, Old Times' three characters are themselves transformed in ways that may render them sharply inconsistent with our first take on them, their understanding of each other, and their evaluations of themselves. The characters play off each other, the newly recovered memories of one reflecting on the others, and enabling them to respond in kind. The reconstituted pictures that emerge are sometimes troubling, casting, for example, a man who pridefully thought of himself as a bit of a rake, into the role of a pathetic voyeur whose wife may not always have been as chaste as he had assumed.
Old Times also intimates that perhaps at least one of the three characters is long dead. Her participation, with her presumed stock of memories, fantasies, and time-dependent correctives is due to the others' memories of her, imagining how the memories might have been distorted to their own advantage, and then attributing the revised images and interpretations directly to her, as if she were still there to respond.
As the play proceeds, the characters invoke trivial items and traits -- a casserole, vegetarianism, bath powder, the likely response to a white dinner jacket in mainland China of the '70's, a marble floor ... -- in an unself-conscious effort to more suitably reconfigure the past and their place in it. At the end, it is unclear that much of anything has really changed. The characters' initial views of themselves and each other were, it seems, as good as anything that has emerged.
I always enjoy reading Pinter, and I enjoyed reading Old Times. This is not, however, one of his better plays. Perhaps he tried too hard to say something new. I think he succeeded, but the effort exerted gives us a play that seems unduly contrived and, at least in part, pointlessly obscure.
There is no plot to speak of, but it has three enigmatic characters (one male, two females) who discuss events in the past. This really doesn't belong in the 'theatre of the absurd' category, but one can call it a 'nominal comedy', along the same lines as Albee's A Delicate Balance, because everything is the same at the end as the beginning.
The reason this play works is due to Pinter's growing control over his characters and the complete brilliance he has in his situational writing. He doesn't write of plots, but he raises so many questions. The fact that none are answered is really of no consequence. It is a difficult play, but a rewarding one.
Psychologically this play is still interesting because it deals with time and memory in an unfamiliar manner. Kate and Deeley are married living away from the London. Kate's old friend Anna is visiting after twenty years. We are faced with ambiguities and gnawing questions. Were Anna and Kate lovers in the past? Did Deeley know Anna in the past? When the play first begins is Anna really in the room? And what does borrowed underwear have to do with the eroticism evident in the play? Is Pinter manipulating us? Playing with us?
The play begins with Absurdist questions and dialogue with some real nonsense lines. Pinter is interested in words, their true meanings, and silences. Some familiar lyrics from old songs are sung by Deeley and Anna such as "Blue moon, I see you standing alone..."
Deeley is apparently a movie director or someone connected with movies. At one point he says he's Orson Welles. There's a lot of mystifying behavior and conversation in the play.
The play has the usual Pinteresque suspense and sense of menace, but it's more obscure, opaque. Why are we uneasy, disturbed by what is occurring? For Deeley the two women seem to merge into one. Does Anna ever show up at all or is it really just Deeley and Kate? Does Anna still exist? This play has one of Pinter's most enigmatic closing scenes.