(Morrison’s article appeared in the Guardian, 4/1.)
Asked what his plays were about, Pinter famously replied: "the weasel under the cocktail cabinet". He came to regret the remark: instead of ridiculing and thereby deterring solemn analyses of his work, it only encouraged them. For decades, definitions of the "Pinteresque" were like a record stuck in a groove, the same few scratchy sounds playing over and over: "heir to Beckett . . . theatre of the Absurd . . . silences . . . pauses . . . menace . . . overlapping monologues . . . failure of communication . . . weasel under the cocktail cabinet". Pinter's resistance to explication added to his cult status. It also deterred attempts to read his plays autobiographically, which given how much media gossip he was generating by the 1980s was a necessary protective strategy. Still, in later years he relaxed a little, spoke more openly about sources and influences, and co-operated with Michael Billington on a biography. Since his death, the veil has been lifted further by Antonia Fraser's Must You Go?, an intimate portrait of a marriage which also offers occasional insights into his plays.