Our group of actors didn’t know quite what to expect when we took our show, ‘Harold Pinter in Cuba’, to Havana for the 14th International Havana Theatre Festival. In the event, it was a bigger success than we dared hope. Two packed out shows in the modern auditorium of the beautiful Museo del Bellas Artes, standing ovations and a half page in Granma were testament to the international reputation of Harold Pinter.
Although Harold was known by many Cubans as an outspoken critic of the US embargo and as the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, few in our appreciative audiences really knew Harold’s written work. Our evening of excerpts from his plays, poems and prose gave them an entertaining insight into the breadth and depth of Harold’s writing, his wisdom, his humour, his romanticism and his lethal dissection of corrupt power. From the moving poem to his widow, Lady Antonia Fraser, It is Here, to the brutal realism of ‘Mountain Language’, Pinter’s words revealed themselves as a universal language whose meaning was easily grasped by audiences not wholly fluent in English.
Aside from the two evening performances we also showed the absorbing TV documentary ‘Working with Pinter’, directed by Harry Burton, an intimate portrayal of Harold made only three years before his death. There was also an afternoon’s acting workshop with a couple of dozen theatre students whose infectious enthusiasm was a treat for all of us taking part.
We met with several senior people in the cultural sphere, including Abel Prieto, the Minister of Culture, and Gisela Gonzales, President of the National Council of Performing Arts, to discuss the ways and means of furthering Pinter’s work in Cuba. Coincidentally our visit came only a few months after the signing of the new Britain-Cuba co-operation agreement so hopefully many more cultural visits similar to ours are to follow in the months and years ahead.
But for our group of actors, none of us is likely ever to forget the experience. Our full cast list was Adjoa Andoh, Andy de la Tour. David Michaels, Roger Lloyd Pack, Myra Sands, Rebecca Thorn and Susan Wooldridge.
Andy de la Tour