Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

A pause and a silence

with 4 comments

Harold Pinter

Interviewer: You’re very clear about the differences between a pause and a silence. The silence is the end of a movement?

Pinter: Oh, no! These pauses and silences! I’ve been appalled. Occasionally when I’ve run into groups of actors, normally abroad, they say a silence is obviously longer than a pause. Right. Okay, so it is. They’ll say, this is a pause, so we’ll stop. And after the pause we’ll start again. I’m sure this happens all over the place and thank goodness I don’t know anything about it. From my point of view, these are not in any sense a formal kind of arrangement. The pause is a pause because of what has just happened in the minds and guts of the characters. They spring out of the text. They’re not formal conveniences or stresses but part of the body of action. I’m simply suggesting that if they play it properly they will find that a pause—or whatever the hell it is—is inevitable. And a silence equally means that something has happened to create the impossibility of anyone speaking for a certain amount of time—until they can recover from whatever happened before the silence.

Harold Pinter, in an interview with Mel Gussow

Written by nevalalee

September 26, 2016 at 7:38 am

4 Responses

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  1. Peter Cook, who along with Pinter contributed sketches to _Pieces of Eight_ , a West End comedy revue, was deeply sceptical of Pinter’s trademark pause, and called it the ‘pay pause’, since the writers were paid according to how many minutes the sketches ran. Cook then wrote and submitted a sketch that consisted almost entirely of significant pauses. Just by the by.


    September 26, 2016 at 5:13 pm

  2. @Darren: It’s funny you should mention Peter Cook—I was just thinking of him the other day, and lamenting the fact that I know nothing about him. I’ll make a point of checking him out soon.


    October 4, 2016 at 9:19 pm

  3. YouTube, of course. Late Cook I like his work on Clive Owen Talks Back: early Cook… the Great Train Robbery


    October 20, 2016 at 1:49 am

  4. @Darren: Thanks for the links!


    October 23, 2016 at 9:44 pm

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