SIGNED by the Author

Harold Pinter

'The Birthday Party' SIGNED

Published: 1959

Date:

An exceptionally rare first edition of Pinter's second full-length play, published in limited numbers by Encore Publishing in 1959. This edition is signed on the title page by the author, with a personal dedication to the actress Margery Withers - the second actress to play the part of 'Meg' (and the first to do so on television). - - - - - - - - - - The Birthday Party was first staged in the spring of 1958 at the Arts Theatre in Cambridge, before playing in Oxford and Wolverhampton. It opened in London, at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, in May 1958 and infamously closed after only eight performances. It's failure is said to have caused Pinter to consider ending his ambition to be a playwright but subsequent revivals have cemented it's status as a classic. In 1959 the play received it's first such re-evalution when it was performed by the Tavistock Repertory Company at the Tower Theatre in Islington, London. This production provides the cover photograph of Encore's first edition. Pinter, who lived locally, saw the production and attended some rehearsals (although he was not directly involved in the production). The company, run by non-professionals, were the first to stage the play after it's 1958 opening. [Tower Theatre archive: http://www.towertheatre.co/plays/1959/p5906.htm] This copy of the book belonged to Margery Withers, the actress who played 'Meg' in the Tavistock Rep Company production. It is personally signed by Pinter with the following message: "To Margery, I shall always remember your wonderful performance as Meg. You were the one and only belle of the ball. Love Harold." It is dated, by Pinter,  'Dec. 59'. The quote 'the one and only belle of the ball' is taken directly from the play itself. - - - - - - - - - - In 1960 Margery was offered to reprise the role in the world's first television production of the play. At the time she was working at the BBC and could not get permission to appear in the ITV drama - emboldened and encouraged by Pinter she quit her job to become an actress full-time. She made her professional debut in the ITV television version of this play and subsequently appeared in numerous British television series and films over the next 40 years, including parts in Coronation Street, Z Cars, The Bill, Casualty and Mike Leigh's Secrets and Lies. She died in 1999. Harold Pinter went on to become one of Britain's most celebrated playwrights, screenwriters, actors, poets and theatre directors. In 2005 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died in 2008. Condition: This was Margery's personal copy and has suffered a little wear to the edges. The front page with the signature has been secured to the front cover with sellotape at some point. This doesn't impinge on the signature and with a bit of careful restoration a better job could be made of this. There's also a small corner of the title page missing, but otherwise the book is complete with no other lose pages and no major defects. The binding now is tight. Pinter signatures from the 1950s are also incredibly rare. This is a first edition of Pinter's first published play, signed and dated by the author with a personal message to his leading lady.

Binding
Softcover

£4500

Offered by John Atkinson Fine & Rare Books