Landscape by Harold Pinter, BBC Radio 4, 2 January 2009
This repeat production, broadcast in tribute to the author (who died
recently) offered listeners the chance to hear Pinter take on the role of Duff, in a two-hander with his wife Beth (Penelope
Wilton). The play comprises two intertwined monologues: Duff's focusing on stereotypically masculine pursuits such as drinking
and dog-racing, Beth's on romantic dreams of lying on a beach with an ideal man (recalling From Here to Eternity).
At one level Landscape is about isolation; neither Beth nor Duff address each other but address listeners as if the other
person simply doesn't exist. They might or might not be in the same room. While we discover that they are married, it
is clear that they are incompatible: Duff's down-to-earth pragmatism contrasts violently with Beth's naive idealism.
The distance - emotional and (probably) physical between the two is also evident
in their choice of words. Duff uses colloquial phrases, sprinkled liberally with epithets and harsh-sounding consonants; Beth
prefers soft sibilants and plosions. It seems that Duff seeks to conform to the masculine stereotype of strength and aggression,
rather than making any effort to relate to his wife. As the play unfolds, we realise that this is a sign of weakness, an inability
to communicate and a withdrawal from social interaction.
The play's title - Landscape - refers to emotional as well as physical
landscapes (the beach, the pub and so on). More significantly, Pinter suggests that there is a vast landscape separating Beth
and Duff, which manifests itself in the way they use language as a means of obfuscation rather than communication. They speak
as a way of avoiding both physical and emotional contact.
Peter Kavanagh's production provided fitting testament to Pinter's ability as a dramatist
and an actor. Although only thirty minutes long, Landscape assaults listeners with the force of a battering-ram,
leaving them exhausted at the end of its short running-time.