The Ambassador Theatre Group Ltd (ATG) today announced plans to re-name London's Comedy Theatre, The Harold Pinter Theatre , after the distinguished playwright, screen writer, director, political activist and actor.
The Comedy Theatre, owned by ATG since 2000, was built by J. H. Addison and originally opened in 1881 as the Royal Comedy Theatre. The Theatre was designed by the well known theatre architect Thomas Verity.
The range of work at the Comedy Theatre has been far reaching, from musical comedies to revival and experimental theatre and includes hugely successful shows such as Savages starring Paul Scofield in 1973 and The Rocky Horror Show making its West End debut in 1979. Alan Bennett has appeared with Patricia Routledge in his Talking Heads and Stockard Channing appeared in Six Degrees of Separation.
But no history of the Comedy Theatre would be complete without reference to Harold Pinter. The Comedy Theatre has been the West End home to no less than 7 Pinter productions over the last 21years including The Homecoming, No Man's Land, Moonlight, The Hothouse, The Caretaker with Michael Gambon (one of the theatre's biggest box office successes), The Lover The Collection starring Gina McKee (directed by Jamie Lloyd and produced by Howard Panter for ATG) and most recently, a sell-out run of Ian Rickson's production of Pinter's Betrayal starring Kristin Scott Thomas and produced by Sonia Friedman.
At the Comedy Theatre, Pinter also directed Otherwise Engaged by Simon Gray, Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose, The Old Masters by Simon Gray and another hugely successful run of The Caretaker.
The first show to open at the newly named Harold Pinter Theatre on 13 October, will be Death and The Maiden by Ariel Dorfman. Dorfman's explosive moral thriller stars Thandie Newton and is directed by Jeremy Herrin.
Howard Panter, ATG's Joint Chief Executive and Creative Director, said: "The work of Pinter has become an integral part of the history of the Comedy Theatre. The re-naming of one of our most successful West End theatres is a fitting tribute to a man who made such a mark on British theatre who, over his 50 year career, became recognised as one of the most influential modern British dramatists."
Born in 1930 in East London Harold Pinter wrote 32 plays, 22 screenplays and directed 36 theatre productions. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, and was awarded the Companion of Honour in 2002. His many awards include the Laurence Olivier Award and the Moliere D'Honneur for Lifetime Achievement, the European Theatre Award and the Legion d'Honneur. In October 2006, Pinter performed Samuel Beckett's monologue Krapp's Last Tape at The Royal Court Theatre, directed by Ian Rickson.
Harold Pinter was married to Antonia Fraser, with whom he lived from 1975 until his death in 2008. She said, "Harold would have been so pleased by this honour and I am very moved at the news."
Ariel Dorfman, Novelist and Playwright, said: "That it should precisely be Death and the Maiden which begins its run in the building just after it has been christened with the name of my dear friend Harold Pinter, fills me with joy and also seems extraordinarily appropriate. That play is dedicated, after all, to Pinter. He was its godfather and guide when it first opened twenty years ago and my mentor for most of my writing life. How wondrous that the very play that owed its first life to Pinter, will now be reborn inside a theatre that bears its name!"