not verbose; not meager: ‘Hamlet’ and ‘The Homecoming’

Shakespeare is not verbose; he just has plenty to reveal.

Pinter is not meager; he just has plenty to hide.

With regard to testing an actor’s range, it is hard to imagine a writer less like Shakespeare than Harold Pinter.  As we move on to workshop Pinter’s The Homecoming, it is worthwhile assessing these differences so as to broaden our understanding of the actor’s weaponry.

In terms of Hamlet’s soliloquies, success can be measured by the even weighting of a line, the clear and precise communication of his moral conundra, by how close, personal, and immediate the prince can appear to his audience. Ultimately, Hamlet can only tell the truth (after all, who lies when talking to themselves?)

For all their depth, the soliloquies are not a matter of Hamlet being believed but Hamlet being understood.

Conversely, in The Homecoming, the actor should prepare for discord and syncopation; distance is paramount and confusion is desired. Grasping the truth in Pinter’s animal house is as easy as grasping an eel in a lake.

Unlike Hamlet’s creator, Pinter concerns himself with what is not said, which absence is immediately projected onto the audience, in all its uncertainty. Put it this way, if Picasso changed the artist’s relationship to the viewer by asserting that ‘it is not what you see that counts, but what I see’, so Pinter responds with ‘it is not what I see that counts, but what you think I see’.

Great acting involves holding something back, purposefully not showing all one’s cards; mystery is seductive. This is why actors love Pinter.

We proceed in this spirit.