Moonlight by Harold Pinter

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BBC Radio 3, 15 February 2009
Re-broadcast as a tribute to the author who died on Christmas Eve 2008, Janet Whittaker's 1992 production painted a bleak portrait of family life. Andy, a boorish civil servant (Harold Pinter), lies dying in his bed, and looks back on a miserable life with his wife Bet (Sara Kestleman). His ex-lover Maria (Jill Johnson) and once-close friend Ralph (John Shrapnel) also appear. Andy reminisces about them while offering acid comments on their social and emotional inadequacies. He waits for his two sons Jake (Douglas Hodge) and Fred (Harry Burton) to visit him; they keep putting off that moment with a series of verbal sparring matches reminiscent of a comedy double-act.
Such is the stuff of Moonlight; no one interrelates with anyone else, as they remain imprisoned by their individual obsessions. People exchange dialogue, but they talk at rather than to one another. Throughout his career Pinter explored different aspects of loneliness, using speech-rhythms that captured his characters' emotional inadequacies. Unable to express themselves, they resort instead to meaningless repetitions, punctuated by digressions into topics apparently unrelated to the subject under discussing. The irony of course is that such digressions constitute an integral part of the characters' discourse, prompting us to reflect on what they are not saying. Subtext - whether emotional or linguistic - is an important part of any Pinter work.
Having said that, I did wonder as I listened to this production whether Moonlight has anything more to contribute to the Pinteresque canon. The play's central idea is certainly intriguing, as Andy and Bet's daughter Bridget (Indira Varma) speaks to us from the dead. Her presence signals the fact that there is really no distinction to be drawn between life and death - particularly the kind of half-life pursued by Andy and Bet. Once Andy passes into the next world, he might have the chance to rejoin his daughter and thereby construct a new life for himself. However there seems little chance of that happening, given his fundamental self-centredness. As the production dragged to a close, I found myself becoming more and more irritated by him - given his basic communicational inadequacies, perhaps he deserves everything he gets. Moonlight is a bleak play, but I confess it left me totally cold.