Harold Pinter’s Early Revue Sketches
Considering Pinter’s early revue sketches as integral elements of his early writing project, this article puts them in partial dialogue with the longer dramatic works from his pen in the same period. The value and impact of his sketches is placed in the context of the playwright’s emerging career as a writer, and the contribution to his reputation they effected offers a suitable counterpoint to the mainstream view of his work as difficult or obscure. His choice of comedic theme and form in the sketches cannot simply be explained as his employing short-form to experiment with material he might expand or develop in his longer dramatic works, but the brevity of expression is clearly structured and exploited to offer a focussed delivery toward a revelation or punch-line, to such a degree that the journey to the punch-line often has greater dramatic importance than that final release. The use of phatic speech, audience confusion or mis-direction, allows Pinter to foreground character and index character motivation to forge humour from unexpected verbal developments. Vignettes that consider social power relationships are clearly important in these sketches and, while there is little that is overtly political, class structures and the relationship between power (including gendered power) and morality are explored across the portfolio of early sketches.
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