Old Times by Harold Pinter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
During the interval, my companion said, "I don't really understand Pinter." Two others said, "I don't think you're supposed to," with one adding, "Just let it wash over you." We concluded that if you think you've understood it, you almost certainly haven't.
Pinter was in the vanguard of the sixties drive away from linear narrative, and in Old Times the conversation is used not to drive any plot as such but to delve into the nature of Deeley and Kate's relationship. The obvious interpretation is that Kate and Anna had been more than friends, which would have been far more shocking in 1971 than now, but that seems too simplistic. More plausible is the interpretation that Anna isn't actually there: the memory of her is what intrudes into the couple's relationship rather than her physical presence.
But even that might be too literal. The younger Kate comes across as almost autistically shy, and would have been a curious best friend for the outrageously gregarious Anna. There's a clue in their sharing of underwear and in Deeley's assertion that he had known Anna too. Perhaps Anna is actually also Kate: the extrovert part of her personality that was suppressed when she married Deeley.
Despite its impenetrability, obscure dialogue and occasional pretentiousness, Old Times is also funny and poetic and has real dramatic energy.
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