Twisted City by Chris Singleton - album sleeve

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Entries in drama (1)


Goodbye Harold

I was lucky enough to meet Harold Pinter once, at a talk he gave at the British Library about his screenwriting career. I asked some daft question about pauses and then vaguely insulted him by telling him (whilst sheepishly getting his autograph) that my favourite play of his was a sketch he wrote called Men for Sale (which has not gone down in history as, er, his greatest piece, and in fact he barely remembered it himself).

It's very sad to see him go. Before I tired of the drama scene, and started pursuing a career in an even sillier one (music), I directed some of his plays. Not entirely successfully I must add - particularly where Betrayal was concerned. The whole point of that play is that the story is told backwards, but in my production a cock-up backstage one night led to it being told the other way round (i.e., forwards!). Quite funny in retrospect, that, although my actors were rather non-plussed.

Anyway, there have been glowing tributes written about Pinter in the past few days. I'll leave the accolades about his work to the theatre critics, but there is something I'd like to point out about Pinter which nobody in the press really seems to have dwelled on in the obituaries: the man had an incredible fondness for (and knowledge of) London bus routes.

Now, bringing public transport into the arts is a lonely (and not altogether cool) task - and, with my last record Twisted City being 'set' on the Tube, I should know. It involved making a complete twit of myself at times, doing album launches on tube trains, gigs on buses and so on (much of that was fun; however, it involved lots of blushing and bad press headlines like 'Why Chris is bus-king' - see for some particularly embarrassing ITV footage of my antics).

But fortunately, thanks to Pinter, I wasn't alone in this odd combining of the arts and public transport. Pinter, it seems, had a very keen interest in London bus routes and frequently brought them (or general bus-related conversation) into his plays and novels. The Caretaker, The Dwarfs and Request Stop all show off Pinter's interest in London buses and their routes, and I'm very grateful that somebody else in the arts - particularly as great a writer as Pinter - wasn't afraid to bring this rather geeky interest into their work.

So goodbye Harold: master playwright, political activist...and public transport enthusiast. I'll miss you, but probably for slightly different reasons to everybody else.

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