Sunday, April 02, 2006

Cast not the first stone

A contestant on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? doesn't know the answer to "which British writer won the 2005 Nobel prize for literature". I can understand Splinters gloat, but I think we should be more humble. The reason Pinter's known as a name outside literary circles is that he has a certain "celebrity"status, at least partly because of his political profile. I can't name any of the other Nobel winners from 2005, British or otherwise, and whereas you can at least go and read a novel or a poem, it's hard to get to see most plays, or playwrights, unless you're in London, doing your English A Levels, or obsessed with the medium. I saw my first Pinter at the Edinburgh festival a couple of years ago, and have seen only The Birthday Party, and Betrayal on television. In fact, there are very few playwrights, Shakespeare aside, that I've seen produced more than 2 or 3 times. I'd like to see more, but however hard I try, I tend to go to three or four productions a yaer, regardless - mixture of time, money, location and - perhaps critically - other people to go with. I'll see the usual collection of Manchester writers at a poetry reading or a book launch, but never at the theatre. It's the 50th anniversary of Osborne's "Look Back in Anger" - again, I only saw it on television, and didn't much like the casual misanthropy. The ubiquitous Mark Lawson makes the point that it is oft mentioned but not oft revived. Osborne, of course, also became a celebrity playwright, it must be all that hanging around with beautiful actresses that does it; right, where's my 3rd act gone to?

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