Pinter Histories and Legacies: The Impact of Harold Pinter's Work on the Development of British Stage and Screen Practices (1957-2017).

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: School of English


Harold Pinter (1930-2008) was a writer whose output over five decades spanned a number of genres: theatre, film, television and radio drama, poetry, prose and political essays. His work has been a part of the canon of world theatre since the 1960s, his films have contributed to the landscape and practices of British cinema, and he is often cited as one of the most significant British writers of the post-war period. His contribution to literature and to the world stage was recognised by a number of awards including the Nobel Prize for Literature (2005), the European Theatre Prize (2006), the Companion of Honour for services to literature (2002) and The Légion d'Honneur (2007). His films have attracted Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations and have won BAFTA, Palme d'Or, Writers Guild of Great Britain awards. His work has been an influence on other writers and his career has involved significant collaborations with renowned actors and directors including Dirk Bogarde, Judi Dench, Michael Gambon, John Gielgud, Peter Hall, Jeremy Irons, Joseph Losey, Ralph Richardson, Ian Rickson and Meryl Streep.

This project will aim to trace, chart, archive and contextualise every professional production of Harold Pinter's plays in the UK since 1957 and through to 2017. There will be a complementary and integrated survey of original broadcasts and significant revivals of his work for television and radio, and his activities in the film industry. These will be captured within a database which will be made available to the wider research community and the public once it is complete. This ambition will be served by access to a range of new and established archival material, and processing and linking this material within the database. Central to this will be the Pinter archive at the British Library. The archival research, and the linkage across such materials that a database will facilitate, will help construct new appreciations of how Pinter's work across media served to form is distinctive voice, and the impact that his output has had across his fields of influence. A focussed and nuanced understanding of the evolution of different aesthetics of performing Pinter will be constructed. The manner in which his own participation in the performance and filming of his work contributed to those aesthetics can be mapped and analysed. New investigations into his long-standing creative relationships (such as those with Peter Hall, John Bury or Eileen Diss) will offer important material. From here, an appreciation of how his activities and productions of his work had a measurable impact upon broad contemporary practice will be theorised. Knowledge, critical thought and information will be disseminated on a project website and associated informal blog. In addition to the traditional outputs of symposia, a conference, and publications, the research will further be disseminated in the form of an eBook, an iBook with rich media and interactive elements. The concept for an app will be developed, proposed as a means of allowing database material to be called-up in relation to the user's own interactions, search queries and interests.

While issues of influence and impact often inform papers, articles, reviews and monographs on the author and his work, there has yet to be a comprehensive study that attempts in any consistent way to assess Pinter's impact as an artist in and across the numerous fields to which he contributed; to seek to quantify and define what impact his work had as his celebrity progressed; and what legacies are left by him in the areas of cultural and social expression in which he engaged. Understanding the relationship between pubic understanding and awareness of a cultural figure and new interpretations of that person's output feeds into theatre programming activities and creative processes, and helps to develop an appreciation of the relative cultural value of that output and its legacies in other works and practices.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this research?

The groups of people this project will have a significant impact upon are:

a.) theatre, film and TV archivists;
b.) theatre and screen media practitioners and emerging and trainee practitioners;
c.) app developers
d.) a wider public who continue to be attracted to Pinter's writing and performances of his work.
e.) School pupils, studying at A-level.

How will they benefit?

a.) and c.) The exploration of the potential of current models of practice for storing data, and for dialogue between data systems that can enrich and promote interactive manners of accessing information and critical commentary, beyond linear or chronological presentations of information will promote rich, independent and individual user interaction with information. The database itself will be constructed in dialogue with the National Performance Database, and will offer integrated access to pertinent aspects of the British Library manuscripts archive, and other related collections such as the APAC (

b.) Current productions of work by Pinter are informed by research undertaken by practitioners and dramaturgs into past productions. This professional practice is accentuated in the case of famous and influential writers. No UK production of Pinter's work sits in isolation from the access that both audience and practitioners have to the reputation of the author, or to knowledge of past iterations of his work. An increased awareness and articulation of the aesthetic languages that have grown around his work allows established or emerging practitioners a richer investment in his aesthetic vocabularies. This promotes both a stronger articulation of the heritage, but also greater experimentation and innovation around and with Pinter's work.

d.) As the success of recent productions of Pinter's work in the West End and in regional theatres demonstrates, the theatre-going public maintains a keen interest in his drama. As a key component of British theatrical heritage, Pinter's plays maintain and sustain a position of cultural significance. An enriched engagement with and understanding of his work is a chief impact of this project, serving to both consolidate and question the status of his writing as a culturally valuable articulation of British creative impulses that entertains, provokes and stimulates new writing and creative activity. In tandem with our partners, the project will present/curate exhibitions, workshops and seasons of films/TV works for broad public consumption.

e.) New knowledge, insights and analyses of Pinter's activities, and of creative responses to his writing; new research materials, including transcribed and recorded interviews, and the collation of design and other production preparation paraphernalia; easily accessible data on the comprehensive history of production of Pinter's output for various media including conventions of performance, approaches to directing and acting and the work of designers. Pinter's dramatic works feature on the syllabi of AQA, Edexcel, OCR and WJEC examination boards. We anticipate that the project digital outcomes will impact upon the teaching of Pinter, the curricula in which his work features, and approaches to Pinter studies at secondary education level (and into FE and HE).


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Taylor-Batty (2017) Review in The Harold Pinter Review

Description Invited Guest Lecture as part of King's College School's Rossetti Society Lecture series 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Delivered by Cat Fallow, Research Fellow on the Pinter Legacies project at the University of Birmingham. A 45-minute talk was delivered to approximately 30 secondary school students (GCSE and A-Level) and staff members at King's College School, Wimbledon. As well as outlining some of the Pinter project's key aims and directing staff and students to the project's online presence, this talk explored the history of the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1960s and 70s. It focused specifically on 1964-1965 and the impact that works by contemporary playwrights like Pinter on the broader context of British theatre at the time. Using Pinter's The Homecoming as a case study, this talk invited student to think about Pinter's work in relation to the wider theatrical and historical context in which it was performed and how Pinter's relationship with the RSC invites us to think differently about his work. The talk was follow by a Q&A session with staff and students in attendance. Following the talk, the staff and students who attended engaged in a lively, thoughtful discussion. Many of the students expressed real interest and enthusiasm for this strand of theatre history (and Pinter's work within it) that they hadn't previously encountered. Following the event, Dr Jame Canon, the school's Head of English, reported via email: 'my students, who are studying Pinter, enjoyed it very much, especially those who are also doing Theatre Studies, who found the history of the RSC's Aldywch season very informative. They've been clamouring to go and see The Birthday Party ever since, which is pretty clear evidence that you sold the 'Dirty Season' to them!'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Programme note for The Birthday Party, Harold Pinter Theatre, January 2018. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Mark Taylor-Batty was approached to write a programme note for the production at the Harold Pinter Theatre of Pinter's The Birthday Party, directed by Ian Rickson. This included formative sections on the context of Pinter's career. Audience members reported to have found the essay helpful in orienting themselves with a play they found baffling.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description Research Presentation as part of the 'BREAKING WAVES' Research Seminar series for the newly opened Centre for Contemporary British Theatre at Royal Holloway 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Co-delivered by two members of the Harold Pinter: Histories and Legacies research team - Dr Basil Chiasson (University of Leeds) and Dr Catriona Fallow (University of Birmingham) - this talk discussed the aims, methodologies, critical priorities, and significance of the project. As well as situating the project in relation to the field of Digital Humanities, this talk also discussed some of the project's early findings based on primary research at institutions such as the Pinter Archive at the British Library and the RSC Collections at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. The talk was followed by a Q&A session with the attending staff members and students and team member, Dr Billy Smart. Following the presentation by Dr Chiasson and Dr Fallow, Dr Smart joined to participate in a lively and productive discussion with the audience (approximately 15). Questions ranged for specific enquiries about each speaker's research interests, to the prosed database and its applications, to broader discussions about the role of Digital Humanities and projects with digital outputs at their heart. This suggests that the event was useful in prompting reflection both on Pinter's work and this project specifically, but also on research methods and outputs in the field of theatre and performance more broadly. Following the event, Dr Chris Megson, Head of the Centre for Contemporary British Theatre at Holloway, described the events as an 'excellent, detailed, very stimulating presentation' and that 'my colleagues and I really appreciated learning more about the great work you're doing in this field'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017