Harold Pinter was born in East London in 1930. He studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and the Central School of Speech and Drama, but soon left to undertake an acting career under the stage name David Baron. Pinter started writing plays in 1957. The product of his labours, a one-act play entitled The Room, contained many elements that would characterize Pinter's later works - a commonplace situation invested with menace and mystery through the deliberate omission of an explanation or motivation for the action.
Pinter's first full-length play The Birthday Party centres around Stanley, an apathetic man in his thirties who has found refuge in a dingy seaside boarding house which has apparently had no other visitors for years. Pinter refuses to provide rational explanations for the actions of his characters: Are the two men emissaries of some secret organization Stanley has betrayed? The question is never answered.
Critic Martin Esslin, who coined the term "theatre of the absurd", saw in Pinter's work a particular nihilism - characters beferft of spiritual awareness with no longing for spiritual values. As Esslin argues: "People interact not so much logically as emotionally through language; and their tone of voice, the emotional colour of the words, is often more significant than their exact meanings by their dictionary definition."
Pinter's sparse style and gift for creating tension through the most economic of means has made him one of the most respected playwrights of the day.