Last week, my Betrayal cast and I were lucky enough to be invited to a local TV station, as the starring guests of a 30-minute arts program called Peninsula Backstage.
I’d only once been to a television studio before, and that was to the BBC studios in London. I was a member of the audience for a late night show called Later… with Jools Holland. (Or maybe it was Later with…Jools Holland. Or maybe - wait. They’re just dots…right?) The most exciting thing about that evening was seeing a then little known Australian band called Crowded House, who went on soon afterwards to be hugely successful across several continents.
The Media Center where Peninsula Backstage is filmed was rather more intimate than the one in Shepherd’s Bush, and I’m not sure their audience figures will propel us immediately to global stardom, but I will say with all sincerity that as an utterly unknown theatre company, we were thrilled and privileged to be there.
Nina G. Perry, the show’s host, and her friendly producer and crew had kindly invited us to come early for pre-show pizza; I think they wanted to make us feel relaxed. And truth to tell, I was actually quite nervous, although I hadn’t expected to be. Nina had sent some surprisingly searching questions a few days earlier, to stimulate the discussion, and consequently my head was full of all the things I wanted to say: about Pinter, about the context of the play, about the language of it, about the starting of Only Connect Theatre. I felt as if I was about to take an exam – Discuss the Use of the Pause in the Works of Harold Pinter - and I was a little afraid that it would all come out in a jumble. The show tapes live, although it isn’t immediately broadcast, so I knew that any mistakes would not be corrected. I hoped I wasn’t going to make a fool of myself.
I reckoned without my cast.
You see, there’s something about rehearsing a difficult, intense and emotional play that seems to bring out the – how shall I put this? – marginally less mature side of everyone. As soon as I call out ‘And – black’ in rehearsal, to indicate that a scene has finished, I’ve noticed that the protagonists tend to fall about in uncontrolled hysterics. Of course, that may be a reflection on my directing, but I prefer to think of it as a necessary release of physical tension and emotional stress. (In fact, I’ve found myself wondering lately if, say, Sir Ian McKellen and the Royal Shakespeare Company did this at the end of every scene of their heart-wrenching production of King Lear, and whether Trevor Nunn managed not to take it personally.)
Anyway, let me just say that I think Nina and the fine folks at the TV station quickly came to the conclusion that we were… relaxed. And all joking aside (which we managed, eventually), I was very pleased to have my high-spirited cast beside me, with their laughter and their energy and their comradeship which, together with Nina’s gracious good humor, put a hasty end to my nerves. In fact, the show seemed to go very well. As well as the chat, the cast gave a grand rendering of a scene ‘in rehearsal’, of which I felt very proud. Plus I managed to squeeze in my theory on the three kinds of Pinter pauses – the Silence, the Pause itself, and those pesky three dots that…haunt me so – and I think I did them all justice.
I’ll find out once I see the playback. And if you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between those three kinds of pauses, you can also find out, since it will soon be up on their website at: http://blip.tv/peninsula-backstage. It will be broadcast shortly too, more than once, and when I know the times, I’ll post them here.
And by the way, the answer is Later… with Jools Holland. Yes, I looked it up (pause) but only because I knew how much you wanted to know. (Silence.)