Harold Pinter Accepts Queen's Companion AwardDate: 17 June 2002
Playwright Harold Pinter received an exceptional accolade at the weekend when he was named a Companion of Honour as part of the Queen's Jubilee birthday honours list. Other theatre luminaries singled out in this year's list included outgoing National Theatre artistic director Trevor Nunn, opera and theatre director Jonathan Miller, Irish playwright Marie Jones and actor David Suchet.
Previously given a CBE, Pinter, who has spoken out on various political issues including the war in Afghanistan, refused a knighthood during John Major's Conservative government. He said this weekend that he was now happy to accept the honour, but that hasn't changed his views. "I do not regard it as having any political connotations at all. I will not be supporting the present government."
Considered by many as the country's most important living playwright, Pinter's first full-length play, 1957's The Birthday Party, was at first a commercial and critical failure. It has since gone on to be a modern classic, along with many of his other 25-odd plays - all bearing his trademark menacing and pregnant pauses and slightly absurd situations - which include The Caretaker, The Homecoming, No Man's Land and Betrayal.
In October 2001, Pinter celebrated his 70th birthday, an event that was commemorated around the world with Pinter productions (including major revivals in the West End) and other festivities, including a Festival of Pinter at New York's Lincoln Center for Performing Arts. During his career, Pinter has also directed and acted in many of his own plays. He was diagnosed last year with cancer of the oesophagus.
Trevor Nunn, who finishes his embattled reign as artistic director of the National in April 2003, has received a knighthood. After his astonishing early career, taking over the directorship of the Royal Shakespeare Company at the age of 28, Nunn has found commercial and critical success on stage with everything from blockbuster musicals such as Cats to the classics.
Jonathan Miller also received a knighthood. To an earlier generation, he was best known as one of the founders - along with Dudley Moore, Peter Cook and Alan Bennett - of the irreverent comedy troupe Beyond the Fringe. In his eclectic career since, he has written numerous books, been a commentator and directed films, opera and theatre, including the current Almeida production of Camera Obscura.
Belfast Playwright Marie Jones, who was awarded an OBE, is best known in London for her Irish two-hander comedy, Stones in His Pockets, now in its third year at the West End’s Duke of York’s Theatre. Having had productions mounted around the world, Stones in His Pockets’ many accolades include the Whatsonstage.com, Olivier and Evening Standard awards for Best Comedy and a Special Achievement Award from the Outer Critics Circle in New York. Another Jones’ play, A Night in November, has a limited run in July at London’s Tricycle Theatre before transferring to the Edinburgh Festival.
The actor David Suchet, who also received an OBE, is familiar to TV audiences for playing detective Hercule Poirot in the long-running Agatha Christie mysteries. His many stage credits have included Amadeus, Oleanna and Shadowlands.
- by Terri Paddock