David Maison

Hot House

A nightmarish satire by Harold Pinter

“The animal wrests the whip from its master and whips itself in order to become master.” Franz Kafka

The theatre of Harold Pinter bears many similarities to the work of Beckett and Ionesco. We find the same refusal of any form of compromise, and contempt for ideological lecturing. We also encounter a shared musicality in the conception of the dialogues and monologues, structural brutality, and love of the equivocal, this disconcerting form of humour which does not shy away from the tragic, with all its risks

This piece was subject to an uncertain destiny in that it was written by Pinter in 1959, and was then promptly “put aside”, to the extent that Pinter forgot its very existence. He then finally turned his attention back to it 1980, and staged it with great enthusiasm. Hot House is undoubtedly the most violently satirical of all his works. The different characters are the senior staff of an undefined bureaucratic institution. The patients, that we never actually see, are identified by their matriculation numbers. Is it about a nursing home, a hospital, or a concentration camp?

Hot House, a biting satire on power and ambition, which is equally as funny as it is terrifying, is the work of Pinter as a young writer. It fits into the so-called “theatre of menace” genre. In it, Harold Pinter explores, with Kafka-like humour, the permanent, inherent dangers of language (misunderstandings, innuendos, and the non-sensical) as well as the different types of behaviour it induces (paranoia, sado-masochism, and schizophrenia, to name but a few). Dramaticules draws upon the sadistic joviality and explosive atmosphere of this “hot-house”, in which comedy and cruelty go hand-in-hand.