Harold Pinter Old Times in London

Old Times

Play by Harold Pinter. In an isolated country house a husband and wife are visited by her friend who she hasn't seen for 20 years. During the course of the evening they reminisce about their earlier lives in London... but each remembers the events differently. In a darkly erotic drama, set around a triangular power-struggle, the past becomes present. "There are some things one remembers even though they may never have happened."

Original London West End Production - RSC at the Aldwych Theatre 1971

1st London West End Revival - Haymarket Theatre 1985

2nd London West End Revival - Wyndham's Theatre 1995

London Revival - Donmar Warehouse 2004

3rd London West End Revival - Harold Pinter Theatre 2013

Harold Pinter's other West End plays include The Hothouse, The Homecoming, The Dumb Waiter, The Caretaker, The Lover and The Collection, Betrayal, The Birthday Party and One For The Road. In addition a collection of Harold Pinter's sketches was presented in 2007 under the title Pinter's People.

Original London West End Production (RSC) 1971

Opened 1 June 1971, Closed 18 March 1972 (in repertory) at the Aldwych Theatre

The cast featured Colin Blakely as 'Deeley', Vivien Merchant as 'Anna' and Dorothy Tutin as 'Kate'. Directed by Peter Hall with sets and lighting by John Bury and costumes by Beatrice Dawson.

1st London West End Revival 1985

Previewed 16 April 1985, Opened 24 April 1985, Closed 22 June 1985 at the Haymarket Theatre

The cast featured Michael Gambon as 'Deeley', Liv Ullmann as 'Anna' and Nicola Pagett as 'Kate'. Directed by David Jones with designs by Timothy O'Brien and lighting by David Hersey.

2nd London West End Revival 1995

Previewed 3 July 1995, Opened 11 July 1995, Closed 23 September 1995 at the Wyndham's Theatre

The cast featured Leigh Lawson as 'Deeley', Harriet Walter as 'Anna' and Julie Christie as 'Kate'. Directed by Lindy Davies with designs by Julian McGown and lighting by Nick Beadle.

This was a transfer from Theatr Clwyd. Harriet Walter replaced Carol Drinkwater in the role of 'Anna' for the London West End staging.

"The job description for the role of Kate in Harold Pinter's Old Times goes like this: must be beautiful, cool, aloof, passive yet powerful. Must effortlessly and maybe even unconsciously provoke others to dance attendance on her. Must tantalise her husband and obsess the woman friend who spends the evening visiting the two of them. .. Julie Christie fits Pinter's specifications, and in the most natural, unaffected way. This smiling English rose makes what can be a waftily erotic fantasy-figure human and real... We are not long into Lindy Davies's refreshingly lucid production before we realise that Leigh Lawson's Deeley, as Kate's husband is called, is in mortal combat with Harriet Walter's Anna... Lawson lollops about in an easygoing way, you are never in doubt that Anna's assault on his marriage fills him with dread. Still less can you miss the emotion Walter brings to a character who has sometimes seemed no more than an unhealthy predator with sensual designs on Kate. She makes us feel that her life ended with the passing of the old times of the title. She gives us love, loss, pain and a deep, deep grief and is, I think, far the most moving Anna I have seen." The Times

"The good news is that Harold Pinter's Old Times is back in the West End with a fine cast comprising Julie Christie, Harriet Walter and Leigh Lawson. The rather less good news is that Australian Lindy Davies directs it with the kind of awed reverence that has long gone out of fashion in British productions of Pinter... Leigh Lawson plays Deeley as a shambling, corduroyed charmer but there is little sense of the veneer of civilisation being stripped away as he sees Kate slipping from his grasp... Harriet Walter is well cast as Anna. She has elegance, class, poise and a nice look of mocking disdain as Deeley claims an intimate past knowledge of her. She is also clearly shattered by the final shoot-out with Kate... In a way Julie Christie as Kate comes off best by doing least. She squats on the sofa with her legs tucked under her looking beautiful, mysterious, enigmatic. But when she reveals her hand in the final scene you realise there is something inviolate, unpossessable and tragically lonely about Kate... So it is a mixed evening. The play possesses an eternal fascination, but, if you have seen it many times before, you will find yourself haunted by memories of even better Old Times." The Guardian

"The memory more than plays tricks, it turns confusing cartwheels as a married couple are visited in their remote coastal retreat by a friend from yesteryear. Why Julie Christie came out of hiding to take part as the wife is as big a mystery as the play itself. She looks a picture but has precious little to do other than shift about uneasily and stare into space. Most of the acting is left to Leigh Lawson as her moody husband and Harriet Walter as her old flatmate, as they prod about in her past. Were the two women lovers? Who sat next to who in the cinema watching Odd Man Out?... As usual Harold Pinter leaves everyone guessing." The Daily Mirror

Old Times in London at the Wyndham's Theatre previewed from 3 July 1995, opened on 11 July 1995 and closed on 23 September 1995

London Revival (Donmar Warehouse) 2004

Previewed 1 July 2004, Opened 7 July 2004, Closed 4 September 2004 at the Donmar Warehouse

The cast featured Jeremy Northam as 'Deeley', Helen McCrory as 'Anna' and Gina McKee as 'Kate'. Directed by Roger Mitchell with set designs by William Dudley and lighting by Rick Fisher.

"Gloomy beggar, Harold Pinter. You sense he and his ilk will not sit easy till the rest of us have so overanalysed our lives, so picked at the scabs of lost loves, that we're fingering the screw-top of the nearest cyanide bottle... Pinter wants to know who has power over dull Kate: Anna or the husband? Lefties do love talking about power. He's right how God-awful it can be to meet a former friend, how destructive it is to dwell on long squandered frissons. But surely the script did not need to be delivered quite so joylessly. This production could use a ladle or two more gravy. Jeremy Northam tries manfully with Deeley but today's blokes are sillier and more feminine. They seldom use surnames now. Everything has to be a diminutive. Trendy forty-somethings aren't intellectual any more. They waste their time emoting and talking, just as Harold Pinter and his polo-necked iconoclasts wanted them to do. Maybe, back in 1970, stuffy Britain did need to face a few stern questions. But in 2004? The unrelenting unhappiness of Pinter's world feels distinctly old-time." The Daily Mail

"Time has accentuated the strangeness and inscrutability of this fascinating Harold Pinter play from 1971 in which suspect memories and complex desires are dangerously stirred when a married couple play host to an old friend of the wife. In the first scene of Old Times, while Gina McKee's mysterious Kate and her husband, Deeley, discuss the impending arrival of Kate's only friend, Anna, you realise the boundaries of naturalism have already been broken. For Helen McCrory's seductive Anna stands silently looking out of the window while she is discussed. She arrives in the action simply by turning round and launching into conversational reminiscence... Deeley and Anna discover themselves jealous rivals, at angry odds over the past and which of them played the larger part in Kate's life 20 years earlier when the girls lived together in London. Does memory play us false and lead us into inventions?... Roger Michell's production proves disappointing and unmoving because Jeremy Northam's Deeley discovers so little cumulative anxiety and desperation, while Helen McCrory's Anna emphasises vampish winsomeness instead of steely artfulness and provocation. Only Gina McKee's compelling Kate, all becalmed enigma variations, catches the spirit of Pinter's dark reverie." The London Evening Standard

"One could hardly ask for a more magnetic, or media-friendly, cast: a bearded Jeremy Northam as the married Deeley; Gina McKee, an alumna of Michell's breakthrough film Notting Hill, as his wife, Kate; and the sublime Helen McCrory, a Donmar semi-regular, as Anna, who comes calling after 20 years' absence - and whom both Kate and Deeley once knew, perhaps intimately. Or maybe not... What matters in Old Times is not the literal truth of an incident but the shifting power plays of the characters, who attempt in varying ways to possess one another. As usual with Pinter, the meaning lies in the details. A film such as Odd Man Out, for instance, is not invoked at random. Deeley emerges as precisely that, a man struggling to retain control in Northam's unusually fevered take on the part... As yet not fully realised is the shimmering subtextual heartache that allows the play to amount to more than some highly artful poses. You admire the beauty of the stage pictures, not to mention the performers, without necessarily being moved. With time, this Old Times is likely to gather force, and McCrory's performance is already there." The Financial Times

Old Times in London at the Donmar Warehouse previewed from 1 July 2004, opened on 7 July 2004 and closed on 4 September 2004

3rd London West End Revival 2013

Previewed 12 January 2013, Opened 31 January 2013, Closed 6 April 2013 at the Harold Pinter Theatre

The cast featured Rufus Sewell as 'Deeley' with Kristin Scott Thomas and Lia Williams alternating the roles of 'Kate' and 'Anna' each evening. Directed by Ian Rickson with designs by Hildegard Bechtler, lighting by Peter Mumford, music by Stephen Warbeck and sound by Paul Groothuis.

"Ian Rickson's revival places the trio - Deeley, his wife, Kate, and Kate's old London flatmate, Anna - in Deeley and Kate's lonely, hazily lit house by the sea. Their talk is of the past: old times in London, where the women were young secretaries, and how Kate and Deeley met and fell in love at a matinee of the film Odd Man Out, the only people in the cinema. Or so Deeley says. So how come Anna claims she was there too? Precisely what is going on is hard to pin down. Are these women real, or is Deeley reliving a male fantasy in which the women are competing for him? Is Anna the ghost of a memory that is pulling the couple apart? Part of this production's pleasure is that while it eludcs definitive interpretation, it demands attention. This revival is all the more mesmerising for having one of our most hypnotic actors, Kristin Scott Thomas, in the cast. But Rickson has made this into something of a theatrical event with Scott Thomas and Lia Williams playing Kate and Anna on alternate nights... What might have begun as a gimmick turns out to be a revelation - but you will have to pay to see it twice to discover why." The Mail on Sunday

"It is right that the first Pinter play to be performed at the theatre recently renamed in the late playwright's honour should be one of his most illusive, not to say deeply baffling... It's both frustrating and totally gripping: Kristin Scott Thomas is an alabaster enigma as Kate; Rufus Sewell, brilliantly blokeish, pugilistic and vulnerable as Deeley; and Lia Williams a leggy seductress in a blue coat dress. On both random and selected nights, Scott Thomas and Williams will swap roles, suggesting that these women may be two figments of Deeley's imagination in a vexed psychodrama. It is at once cool, passionate and deeply unnerving, and I'd like to go back again and again until I can work out exactly what's going on." The Sunday Telegraph

"You need to fork out twice to get the full measure of Ian Rickson's production of Harold Pinter's 1971 enigma, in which Kristin Scott Thomas and Lia Williams swap roles as supposed one-time best friends Anna and Kate. The point, presumably, is less to suggest that they are facets of the same person and more that Old Times can change just as a memory does, depending on which character/actress is speaking. But just seeing one version makes this clear enough. Old Times can feel like a particularly airless artifice, in which its three characters are trapped in a deadening endgame of psychological warfare. But you can't fault the acting here, or the clean, merciless lines of Rickson's production, as Kate's husband Deeley (Rufus Sewell) and Anna compete to claim ownership, through the superiority of memory, of the virtually silent Kate. Sewell's Deeley conceals insecurity and doubt beneath a clumsy, unattractive bluster. Interestingly, in the version where Scott Thomas plays Anna, the dangerous eroticism is not in her crude flirtations with Deeley he reminds her he stared up her skirt at a party after having told his wife he's never met her rather, it's in Anna's attempts to mentally seduce Williams's Kate, who waits, coiled serpent-like, before pouncing to consume her prey. Against Hildegard Bechtler's painterly set, Rickson's production has a particularly claustrophobic feel, the repeated visual motifs playing out like an enervating nightmare." The London Metro

Old Times in London at the Harold Pinter Theatre previewed from 12 January 2013, opened on 31 January 2013 and closed on 6 April 2013