Pinter. Pinter. Pinter. I love me some Harold Pinter. He is a very distinctive voice in theatre. This is actually a collection of short plays. In 1982 it was presented as an evening of theatre with an encompassing title, Other Places. It was published as a complete play, so I am going to write about it as such.
The individual plays are Family Voices, Victoria Station, and A Kind of Alaska. The plays are thematically linked in that they all deal with faults in communication. I think they would definitely form a unified and exciting night of theatre, I will write about them in the order that they would be presented on stage although they are printed in reverse order.
The first play in the group is called Family Voices. It was originally written for radio but it could work well on stage. The play has three characters, a son, a mother and a father. They each read letters that they have written to each other. One wonders if anyone received any of these letters because they don't seem to be responses. The son writes the mother for advice dealing with his new living situation. The mother writes to the son trying to reconnect with him because he has vanished from her life. These are the letters that make up the bulk of the play. The father's letters come at the end. They are directed towards the son and are quite funny.
Victoria Station is also a comedy, which is somewhat rare for Pinter; this one is a full out farce for him. A taxi dispatcher tries to contact a taxi driver to send him on a call and ends up helping him through an existential crisis.
The most affecting piece in this group is A Kind of Alaska. It shows us a young woman, Deborah, who at the age of 14, fell victim to a sleeping sickness. She awakes in her mid-thirties and tries to adjust and understand what has happened to her. She is visited by a sympathetic doctor, Hornby, and her older sister, Pauline. All this happens in Pinter's terse, broken, language. One has to be a bit of a detective to make sense out of it all. This can be a bit frustrating as one wishes that people would just say things more clearly but that is the nature of Pinter's art.
I like these plays. The first two are strangely amusing and set up the third deceptively. One expects a more comic sensibility from it after the first two and that underscores both the humor and pathos of A Kind of Alaska. It is definitely the high point of this group and one of Pinter's strongest later plays.