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The Birthday Party

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  9,303 ratings  ·  299 reviews
Stanley Webber is visited in his boarding house by strangers, Goldberg and McCann. An innocent-seeming birthday party for Stanley turns into a nightmare.

The Birthday Party was first performed in 1958 and is now a modern classic. Produced and studied throughout the world.
Paperback, 96 pages
Published March 1991 by Faber & Faber (first published 1957)
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Kennedy I think Stan gets taken away to be reconditioned.
I also believe Meg has been similarly lobotomized or sumsuch (before the days of the Men in Black's …more
I think Stan gets taken away to be reconditioned.
I also believe Meg has been similarly lobotomized or sumsuch (before the days of the Men in Black's amnesia flash) by the organization. Petey is there to keep tabs and responds in fear when it is suggested he come along to be treated by 'Monty'.
I reread The Birthday Party as a cold war era (it is) spy thriller ala The Prisoner or Tinker Tailor and alot of pieces come together in that view: the deadeyed retirement community, the newspaper is not meant to be read, Stan's doped morning tea, Stan having visited Berlin and other behind the Iron Curtain locales, the 'on the list' boarding house, each character's fuzzy identity, the blindfold/ eye glasses. The broken drum is a symbol of abandoned conformity.
Imagine Meg as having been a succulent WWI era Mata Hari/ Bond girl spy who knew too much then was repurposed.
And at least three characters have daddy issues.
The 'Organization' is an oxymoron; their method is absurd.
Sorry Mahsa, but blowing this masterpiece off a nonsensical is underconsidered... If, as you say, it is brilliant there must be a reason.(less)

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Ahmad Sharabiani
The Birthday Party, Harold Pinter

The Birthday Party (1957) is the second full-length play by Harold Pinter. It is one of his best-known and most frequently performed plays.

In the setting of a rundown seaside boarding house, a little birthday party is turned into a nightmare on the unexpected arrival of two sinister strangers.

The play has been classified as a comedy of menace, characterised by Pinteresque elements such as ambiguous identity, confusions of time and place, and dark political symb
Barry Pierce
Oct 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Birthday Party is the play I'd give to someone if I really wanted them to be scared shitless by Harold Pinter. There is no easy way into Pinter so it's best to just crash-land into his work. This play contains everything that one may describe as "Pinteresque". Long pauses. Overwhelming dread. Near deathly tension. And, of course, humour. Dark, dark humour.

Stanley is a lodger in a house in a seaside town. He lives with the owners of the house. They are simply folk. One day two men turn up at
Sep 17, 2012 rated it liked it
O gee. As with Shaw & Beckett, Pinter's first work is not without its... charm. The "uselessness and bleakness" angle so articulately employed in "Godot" is present here as well-- there is an aimlessness, a sense of character alienation on an individual basis-- perhaps actual just sound and fury signifying nil. All the characters seem to be pawns in that "Classical Narrative" sort of way--but they are obvious embodiments of other things-- FOR SURE. Pinter seems like the most surreal (hooray!) of ...more
Sidharth Vardhan
It looks like Pinter had ideas about a lot of tricks - mostly aimed at confusing the audience like ambiguous identity, confusions of time and place etc. And Pinter does write his first play that display all those tricks. The problem is that the tricks are all you get. There is not much of plot or understandable characters. It is like a dish made entirely of spices.
Mar 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: you came right out of the blue, you know that?
Recommended to Mariel by: you're a dead duck
Goldberg. You're dead. You can't live, you can't think, you can't love. You're dead. You're a plague gone bad. There's no juice in you. You're nothing but an odour!

Goldberg and McMann eviscerate Stanley. Who are Goldberg and McMann? Two men to mysteriously show up and ask for a room in the boarding house that isn't a boarding house. They mean business of menace and firey pits of scorn. Go Stanley. It's your birthday. I pictured Stanley to not fit his own clothes. He doesn't fit his time, the kit
Mary ♥
Dec 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
4/5 stars

Trigger Warning: Attempted r*pe

That was the most absurd thing I have ever read...
Feb 21, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: plays
I really did NOT like it. this is a play which lots of modern playwrights refer to as kind of a masterpiece. there are hundreds of "how-to-write-a-play" books which you can find in every bookstore and I bet 99% of 'em has pulled out something outta this play as sort of an instance, so you choose to read this play and you're really excited about it. you've even got this assumption that you're gonna read something absurd, but from what you've read in past, absurd plays usually have several layers ...more
Apr 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
If you are a literature student and haven't read this play, go sue your university.

If you're a literature student, you've read the play and hated it, go sell your degree.

If you are a literature student, have read the play and are indifferent to it, I understand.

If you're a layman and you've read the play, bravo!

Honestly, I don't know how I'd have reacted if I'd read the play when I was younger. But literature develops taste for all things.

Be forewarned. This is a play belonging to absurd theatre
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
What makes the toilet bowl in an art gallery a work of art as opposed to it being simply a lavatory for public use is that it’s installed by an artist instead of a plumber and that an art critic (or somebody who wants to call you a philistine) comes along and attaches meaning to the toilet bowl.

Well I don’t go in for that kind of crap. I don’t like being told what to think. I’ll make up my own mind, and I don’t believe The Birthday Party means anything unless you want it to mean something.

You c
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
read this for uni a while ago. really really unsettling, as i expected it to be. the interrogation scene will always remain in my mind.
Rachel Louise Atkin
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
I have absolutely no idea what I just read but it was really weird and I'm weird too so I liked it. ...more
Hossein Sharifi
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
a brilliant, confusing, and shocking play ....
it takes hours and hours to talk about.

Recommended by Brazilliant, it has been many years since first encountering this. Wonder if this revisit with Toby Jones will tickle me into a better opinion.

Description: Stanley, an erstwhile pianist lives in a dingy seaside boarding house run by Meg and Petey. He is comfortable there, like a surrogate son. Two sinister strangers turn up - Goldberg and McCann. They claim to know him from the past. They turn Stanley's birthday party into a menacing and te
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Bettie, Wanda
From BBC Radio 3 - Drama on 3:
Stanley, an erstwhile pianist lives in a dingy seaside boarding house run by Meg and Petey. He is comfortable there, like a surrogate son. Two sinister strangers turn up - Goldberg and McCann. They claim to know him from the past. They turn Stanley's birthday party into a menacing and terrifying encounter. Franz Kafka meets Donald McGill in Pinter’s iconic comedy of menace.

Stanley ..... Toby Jones
Goldberg ..... Henry Goodman
McCann ..... Stephen Rae
Meg ..... Maggie S
Nick Jones
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I was still at school we were taken one afternoon to our local theatre for a workshop on Harold Pinter. I can’t remember what we were asked to do (maybe nothing?), but I remember the session finished with a performance of The Dumb Waiter and before that one of the actors had talked to us, trying to explain Pinter. If I remember correctly he explained Pinter in terms of naturalism, that his repetitions, for instance, reflected normal speech. This seems nonsense. Pinter’s dialogue might be bu ...more
Jun 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school

This play is brilliant. I feel a little confused but in a mind-blown way. I feel a lot of pathos for Stanley, who has his comfortably peaceful although mundane life disturbed by two strangers (who really put the 'strange' in 'strangers'!) staying at the boarding-house in just one day. But Stanley himself is such an enigma to me too, it's hard to feel very personally for him. And the two strangers - what on earth is this 'job' and mission they're there to do???! I like how Harold Pinte
Mar 11, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays
Just really not for me.
Jun 17, 2010 rated it liked it
a play depicting the modern rootlessness of man, who is wandering with no origin and no destination. He can be involved in dual relationship of being a lover and a surrogate son. There is something always lurking which haunts him so that he is not able to articulate himself fully. The Postmodernism predominates and in the wake of it, the danger, futility, absurdity, terror, guilt, nothingness, all prevails, which never allows the protagonist to rest, and there is no solace for him.
Apr 20, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not sure what to make of this, I didn't know what to expect from it at the beginning. Need to do some research into what it's themes are meant to be/what it's actually meant to be about (haha). Some great quotes though, especially the one about a body in the morning being like a corpse that needs to be washed.

After reading more in depth into it's themes of individual resistance, oppression and a yearning for past times now gone, I appreciate this play much more.
Maryam Samiei
May 09, 2016 rated it liked it
At first I did not really pull out the relationship between each and every concept of the work. But after discussing the play from psychological point of view I really liked it.
If you just think of the oedipal complex that Stanley has faced and the true intruders as superego you would come to the state of awe;)
Feb 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
Absurd banality at its best.
Dec 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-reads, drama
This play is about a shady thirty-year old named Stanley, staying for well over a year now in a seaside boardinghouse run by Meg and Petey, a couple in their sixties. Everything is all right until Petey announces that two men asked him for a place to spend the night. Stan seems concerned when Meg tells him about the new arrivals. Clearly, Stan has done something wrong. At least, he is hiding away from something.

Later that morning, the two gentlemen, Goldberg and McCann, arrive. Obviously, they a
While not nearly as remarkable as Pinter's opus, The Homecoming, this is still a play that has gotten inside me and changed me a little. The Birthday Party has no flaws and it is a petrifying and hilarious account of madness, conformity, and the terror of society. The characters McCann and Goldberg are some of my favorite of Pinter's creations, though nowhere near The Homecoming's own Lenny on my scale of philosophical deepness and casual brutality. The Birthday Party is a fine work, certainly s ...more
May 01, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: plays
Why give "The Birthday Party" only four stars and "The Caretaker" five? While the former play is certainly Pinter's most famous, and contains a good sampling of his notable techniques - disconnected language, extreme power relationships, and a persistent sense of threat and violence - it's a much messier play than "The Caretaker"; more themes are addressed, but Pinter's ambitions often get in the way of his sense of character. In the end, preference between the two plays seems highly personal to ...more
May 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Definitely my favorite Pinter that I've read so far. It's so tense and violent but what makes it work so amazingly well is how implied and ambiguous all the confrontations are. I'd love to see this on stage to get the full experience of the shouting match and blackout scenes. The influence of this play seems pretty widespread but others usually fall way short of Pinter's more subtly effective approach (Michael Haneke's Funny Games being a prime example). ...more
Apr 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is Pinter's first well-made play!! Themes of Isolation, menace, the Other, the haunting past, idenity...and relationships are ale embedded there! A Lovely Pinteresque Language entraps you as well throughout the play!
The play takes place in almost one day and a night...revolving round a birthday party! It will leave you puzzled..and in terror just as anything else in life!
Sheikha Alhilaly
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it

As much as I hate absurdist theater, as much as I like the plays. It's a very strange dilemma.
Shabbeer Hassan
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: plays, 2018
An absurd plot! The thing to note is the rather unforgettable interrogation scene with the rest of the play quite banal.

My Rating - 2/5
Apr 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-re-read
Like the characters within the play itself, I’m not sure I have much of substance to say about The Birthday Party. Not that I disliked it or thought it unremarkable—on the contrary, I liked it very much and found Pinter’s style fascinating. It’s a mystery and a maze of unrelenting atmosphere, fairly conventional in its three-act, single-setting structure, but remarkably dense when you consider how defiant it is in disallowing the audience to ever gain access to its secrets. From what I’ve read o ...more
May 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Some nice British weirdness. The Birthday Party starts in quite a pedestrian fashion, but it takes a couple of pages to realise something is really off about it. The moments of silence before dull monosyllabic answers, the weird characters dynamics whose relationships are never clear to the reader. Yes, there's something off about the scene and Pinter evokes it only with common language, with a dull setting that quickly falls apart as the play advances to reveal something grim and grotesque. The ...more
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Harold Pinter, CH, CBE, was an English playwright, screenwriter, actor, director, political activist, and poet. He was one of the most influential playwrights of modern times. In 2005 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

After publishing poetry and acting in school plays as a teenager in London, Pinter began his professional theatrical career in 1951, touring throughout Ireland. From 1952

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“Stan, don't let them tell you what to do!” 3 likes
“what are you but a corpse waiting to be washed?” 1 likes
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