Heidi Trautmann

23 - “The Birthday Party” by Harold Pinter at the Nicosia Municipal Theatre

The last performances of The Birthday Party were on April 3 and 4. I would not miss it. I would see my favourite actors which I already had admired in an Aristophanes play Baris/Peace two years ago.

I knew the theatre was in Küçük Kaymaklıç I had been there before twice, but I didn’t remember well where to turn off so I asked my husband to look it up on the Google map which is included in the website of the Nicosia Municipal Theatre which we found out later was absolutely misleading; it placed the theatre near the Nicosia bus station in the back of the new Municipality building. If it weren’t for very friendly belediye employees who accompanied us to the proper address, we would have missed the first act.

There was still time to wave hello to Cypriot friends I discovered among the audience, to greet the director Aliye Ummanel whom I had met at the International Poetry performance at the Arabahmet Cultural Centre a week before.

I love this small theatre, it reminds me of our experimental workshop theatres back home where I used to go in my younger days; the choice of plays and performances were often more exciting and daring than the big stages.

The house was full this evening. The stage was completely open in a wide perspective angle and nearly reached the first row of seats, thus I felt drawn into the scenery, part of it. Two steps to the left and I could have sat down at the table of the boardıng house’s living room. Great décor: A wooden beam construction giving the illusion of a transparent house.


PS: I will add the est of the pictures in a second file: "Birth Day Party continued"

The story appears simple. A run-down boarding house in an English seaside town. The landlords, Meg and Petey and one boarding guest, Stanley Webber, an erstwhile piano player who is ‘at home’ here, flirted at and mothered by Meg and young Lulu, a naïve belle with whom he would like to go away but has no other place to go to, he is lost to life, no goal, no ambitions. It is the day of his birthday, or is it not? Two sinister men arrive McCann and Goldberg, who seem to know Stanley. Things happen in the house, relations, old feuds, disgust and somewhere a common past are uncovered. However, the most important parts are played by Falsehood and Lies, Contradictions, and in the end actually nothing is revealed, only half truths, and the audience utter questions: What is it, the play wants to say to us? The play, a cross section through a magnifying glass on the daily show of people, leaving questions but not answering them. Perhaps Harold Pinter wants us to ask ourselves how much of our daily behaviour, the small things we do, are really truthful and genuine?

Özgür Oktay was a fabulous Meg from top to toe, motherly but flirtatious, in all her movements and mimicry, a busybody. Hatice Tezcan as the naïve Lulu was equally perfect. Petey was played by Erol Refikoğlu, giving the good natured sort of care taker the perfect image. Osman Alkaş and Bariş Refikoğlu, both old theatre hands, as the sinister men of the demi-monde, great performance; and finally Osman Ateş, whom I have known for some years and had interviewed in 2005 when he was not older than 25 I believe, a most talented young man who is absorbed by theatre and dance and choreography and who does not stop observing each step he takes even when offstage. Aliye Ummanel, the director, has created with a  sensibly leading hand the proper atmosphere of Pinter’s play and its actors.

The other persons responsible for the success of the play were: Translator of play: Mehmet Fuat; Décor and costume designer: Özlem Yetkili, Lighting design: Osman Alkaş, Music effects design: Osman Ateş; Graphic design: Ümit Inatçı and Maedeh S. Pezeshk; Fotograf: Urmut Ersoy

Directing assistant: Cem Aykut; décor: Riza Şen, Mehmet Özulu; Lighting: Firat Eseri; costumes: Fatma Ergene; Effects: Ercüment Birkin; Stage workers: Özkan Gezici, Mehmet Demir and Stage manager: Riza Şen.


I am looking forward to the next theatre season!


Aliye Ummanel answered:


Dear Heidi,
I read your review and your positive comments about our performance. i also believe that our actors did a very good task for this difficult play.
yes you are right, Pinter did hide some things on purpose. he believed that art is not to answer but to create questions. so do I. he created his own style which was later to be called "pinteresque". his plays are set in an ambiguous atmosphere where people coming from outside threaten the ones living inside. black humour comes with menace.
Anyway, about the lady who talked to you... when Pinter's play was staged for the first time in 1958 in London, it was very negatively criticised except for only one critic. and a lady sent him a letter which was more or less like this:
D Mr Pinter, I've seen your play and have some questions:
who are these man?
where are they coming from?
what do they want?
and Pinter replied her letter;
dear ms....
who are you?
where are you from?
what do you want?
This was the situation 50 years ago but in five years it was to be staged by Royal Shakespeare company (the designer of that production was Ralph Koltai who saw our rehearsal and found it "fascinating"), and then until today to be known worldwide, even Nobel award was to be given to the writer.
and believe the comment of the lady who spoke to you is very normal for a person who does not have a background about this worldwide known playwright and such a world view yet. of course we were expecting such comments when we chose the play because Pinter was never staged here before, but it is our responsibility to let people know good playwrights...so we are doing it.
I remember you asked me for photos from the play, unfortunately I received them only today. you have already used one for your page but anyway in case you want to change it I am sending you a few attached.
By the way, on our website which is www.lefkosabelediyetiyatrosu.com the address is correct, I don't know about the one you are mentioning. but if it is Google earth, maybe it is showing the new building. the place by the municipality and bus stop is the new municipal theater building which is still being built...
and our new projects...
now we are preparing for a tour in Trabzon, Turkey for an international festival. we are going to play "yağmurum olsana" by Raşit Celikezer. Yaşar Ersoy directed this play. We will play here several performances before tour. and then on 2nd May we are going...
any way...
hope to see you again soon
thanks for coming and writing...

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