The Caretaker by Pinter: a Play Can Be Confrontational, Challenging an

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  • Topic: Harold Pinter, The Caretaker, Michael Gambon
  • Pages : 6 (1962 words )
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  • Published : October 8, 1999
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The Caretaker by Pinter: A Play Can Be Confrontational, Challenging and Disturbing to the Values and Assumptions of An Audience. Discuss With close Reference

The Caretaker, written by the British playwright Harold Pinter in the late 1950's and early 1960's disrupts the audiences perceptions of existence and their understandings of it. The play deconstructs perceived notions and conceptions of reality, and disturbs the audiences perception of their own identity and place within a world which is primarily concerned with the search and need for identity. Pinter was clearly influenced by the fashionable philosophic review of human condition that was prominent in the 1950's and 1960's – existentialism. The play attacks the notion that there are no absolute truths or realities. Pinter is therefore concerned with what exists as unknown and intangible to humanity. His theatre interrogates the truth of nature and realities of language and demonstrates that much of what the audience regards as fact is fiction as he explores the uncertainty of human existence.

When an audience of the 1960's went to the theatre, it can generally be assumed that they had preconceived ideas about what they expected and what they are going to gain from the theatrical experience. The traditional attitudes towards theatre and the conventions of realist drama are disrupted by Pinter. This confronts the assumptions and values of the audience, an experience which would be disconcerting and frightening to many.

Pinter divorces and exposes society's codes, institutions and human relations. Throughout the play the audience is rarely comfortable. This disruption is established from the outset of the play when Mick, a character who at this stage of the play the audience knows nothing about, sits on the bed and stares at the audience in silence for ‘30 seconds'. Traditionally in realist drama such as Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler characters use simple exposition through language and non-verbal elements to ‘let the audience in' and enlighten them on what is happening on the stage and the results and reasons for and behind actions. Pinter disrupts this tradition and this in itself would have been a disturbing phenomena to the conservative audiences of post-war Britain. Mick's arrival on stage generates unease within the audience and the tension would only increase as Pinter provides the audience with no explanation for him being there. Mick leaves the stage in a state of maintained silence, hence the first images presented in the play confront many of the assumptions of a traditional theatrical experience.

Mick is alone in the room, sitting on the bed. He wears a leather jacket… He slowly looks about the room, looking at each object in turn. He looks up at the ceiling, and stares at the bucket… Silence for thirty seconds. Mick turns his head. He stands, moves silently to the door, goes out, and closes the door quietly.

It is not until the Act two that this character becomes known to the audience as Mick. This deferral of information is quite confrontational as it opposes accepted and naturalised preconceptions of power and right. Mick's position on the bed and his costuming - wearing a leather jacket places him in the traditionally accepted position of power. However this idea is problematised when Mick leaves the room and Aston enters with the key, thus demonstrating the illusory and ambiguous nature of power. Mick not re-entering until later in the play confronts traditional notion that as he was introduced first, he is in a position of power. The opening scene defamiliarises the Audience with traditional notions of power and establishes a precedent for the remainder of the play.

Pinter does not adhere to the accepted use of dramatic conventions. There is no traditional relation of character histories within the opening scenes and lack of revelation is maintained throughout the play as relatively little is exposed about the characters backgrounds....
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