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Under the influence

18 March 2006

12:00 AM

18 March 2006

12:00 AM

Has Harold Pinter become too dominant a figure? I’m not just talking about the trophies he’s picked up in the past 12 months — the Wilfred Owen prize, the Franz Kafka prize, the Nobel prize, the Europe Theatre prize — but, more worryingly, the fact that so many new British playwrights seem content to ape Pinter’s idiosyncratic style. There was a time, not so long ago, when a writer wouldn’t be regarded as having arrived until he’d discovered his own voice. Typically, this process would involve him in an Oedipal struggle with the most important writers of his age, a phenomenon famously documented in The Anxiety of Influence, Harold Bloom’s study of the romantic poets. Nowadays, it seems, the prospect of being influenced is no longer a source of anxiety — at least, not when it comes to Pinter. On the contrary, Oedipal resistance has given way to craven obeisance. Faced with a figure of such overpowering authority — enhanced, no doubt, by Pinter’s extraordinary force of personality — most young playwrights experience the theatrical equivalence of the F


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