The Birthday Party (1959)

New Play:


First performance:
Opening night:
Final performance:
Harold Pinter

Tour (see notes)

12 January 1959
12 January 1959
14 March 1959

Stage Manager:
Harold Pinter

Ann Hughesdon
David Campton
Dona Martyn
Alan Ayckbourn
Faynia Jeffery
David Sutton
Rodney Wood

Why is this play significant?

Quite simply because it is a lesser known piece of hugely significant British theatre history. This was the second professional production of The Birthday Party - frequently ignored or unmentioned in theatre reference books - and it marked the professional directorial debut of Harold Pinter and the first time he would direct one of his own plays. A hugely significant moment in 20th century British theatre.


A fascinating yet little know piece of the Library Theatre’s history is Harold Pinter made his directorial debut with the Studio Theatre company directing the second professional production of his play The Birthday Party.
Despite its significance as Pinter’s directorial debut, this production of The Birthday Party is often over-looked; which is all the more extraordinary considering Pinter spoke on record about how his experiences with directing the play re-affirmed both his view of the play following its critical mauling in the West End and his own abilities as a playwright.
The Birthday Party was rehearsed in Scarborough at Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre during the 1958 winter season. However, it was never performed in Scarborough. It was part of the company’s subsequent winter tour and performed for a week at Birmingham Theatre Centre from 12 - 17 January and for a week at the Vaughan College, Leicester, from 9 - 14 March.
Somewhat bizarrely, the first scene of this production was performed in Scarborough by the Studio Theatre company at the Futurist Theatre as part of a late-night charity fund-raiser on 2 September 1959 - alongside acts such as Frankie Howard, Molly Sudden and Martin Granger’s Puppets!
Alan Ayckbourn's experiences with Harold Pinter whilst acting in The Birthday Party were hugely influential. During the course of the tour, Alan began writing this first professionally commissioned play, The Square Cat.


All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd.