Pinter Family Bids Farewell to Master of Drama

LONDON ~ Harold Pinter’s family bade farewell to the late Nobel-prize winning playwright on Wednesday at a simple, private funeral service – with arrangements directed by the writer himself, in advance.

Fellow thespians including actor Michael Gambon and dramatist Tom Stoppard joined some 50 guests gathered for the 15-minute ceremony in a London cemetery, a week after Pinter’s death from cancer on Christmas Eve.

His widow Lady Antonia Fraser led mourners at the Kensal Green Cemetery in northwest London, where Gambon read a passage from Pinter’s play No Man’s Land as requested by Pinter himself three months ago.

“And so I say to you, tender the dead as you would yourself be tendered, in what you would describe as your life,” he read from the master dramatist’s work, standing under a tree in the cold London air.

No prayers were said during the service, which included poetry reflecting Pinter’s love of cricket. Fraser, his second wife, was dressed in a white hat and black outfit.

Pinter, whose best-known plays included The Birthday Party, The Dumb Waiter and The Homecoming, died on December 24 at the age of 78, having suffered from cancer for a number of years.

Pinter’s agent Judy Daish said the private funeral service would be followed by memorial event for the writer – who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005 – some time next year.

Actor Matther Burton, who had worked with the writer, told the Evening Standard daily that Pinter had arranged his own funeral.

“He seems to have given very precise instructions. I believe the funeral will be carried out to his instructions,” said Burton, who was to read from the poem At Lord’s by Francis Thompson.

Pinter’s first play, The Room, appeared in 1957, but his breakthrough came with The Caretaker in 1960.

His plays often featured the slang language of his native east London as well as his trademark menacing pauses. The adjective “Pinteresque,” referring to such characteristics, is included in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Pinter stopped writing plays in 2005 and focused on poetry, alongside forays into acting and screenwriting.

Following treatment for cancer of the esophagus diagnosed in 2002, he returned to the stage, winning rave reviews for his performance of Beckett’s monologue, Krapp’s Last Tape, in London in 2006.

In his final years, he was also a vocal critic of the Iraq war, calling the 2003 US-led invasion a “bandit act” that showed “absolute contempt for the concept of international law.”

In New York, Broadway theaters dimmed their lights on Tuesday in honor of Pinter. The head of the Broadway League, Charlotte Saint Martin, hailed the playwright’s “genius and distinct contributions to modern theatre.”

He is survived by a wife, a son, Daniel, from a marriage to his first wife, actress Vivien Merchant, and six step-children.

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