Mountain Language [and] Pinter Sketches


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Wits School of ArtsCelebrating language and the genius of Harold Pinter …

Wits Theatre and Wits School of Arts / Division of Theatre and Performance (TAP) present Mountain Language [and] Pinter Sketches, directed by Tina Johnson.

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Known as one of Harold Pinter’s political plays, Mountain Language, by arguably one of the 20th century’s greatest playwrights, takes place in an unnamed prison, country and time. Pinter is said to have written it after visiting Kurdistan but denied that the play was about the Kurdish struggle. He wanted it to be considered in a more universal aspect of gross human rights infringements and the struggle it portrays is one being waged across the globe today.

The director Tina Johnson is working with a young cast of student actors from Wits University’s Theatre and Performance Division as well as ex-Market Theatre laboratory students to create an evening of Pinter. Mountain Language forms the first part, a short play set in a nowhere land, perhaps a desert where these “mountain people’ are persecuted by a dictatorial regime as they exploit the natural resources belonging to this fictional tribe. It is a theme we are all familiar with and the play speaks strongly to the abuse of powers by totalitarian systems where the law is abused, used to tyrannize and subjugate and where justice has no place.

Harald Pinter’s greatness lay in his use of language and his plays force us to question language, meaning, life and our very reality that is filtered through our use of words. In Mountain Language, the element of the repression of a people’s language is an overarching theme implying the loss of expression, one’s very culture and freedom. The play is told in sparse language, in four short and brutal scenes.

The Pinter Sketches provides a welcome relief that is a celebration of language. In eleven short scenes, the repetitions, banality and clichés that characterise our daily linguistic interactions, is highlighted. It forces us to interrogate meaning, recognize how incoherent we can be and take an insane delight in the words we use, the many ways we hide our real meaning to conceal or assault, as well as to express. Its style is a skit, a ‘vaudeville’ of words, where Pinter holds up a mirror to the funny and eccentric ways we relate to one another.

This programme celebrates language and the genius of Pinter: his capturing of language, its rhythms in all its brilliance, cruelty and absurdity. As a multi-lingual society, Tina Johnson said: “South Africans ‘get’ Pinter, they know the vagaries and the brilliance of languages- this is a multi-lingual society, the slang used here is as vital as can be, and they understand what he has done with the English language and how he has used the rhythms and cadences of the east side of London to create a masterful comment on who we are as people in this world.”

Tina has worked in South Africa for many years, directing at such theatres as the Market Theatre, the Baxter and the Playhouse. She has also taught acting at every corner and ‘dorp’ of the country, as well as worked at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. Originally from USA, where she studied theatre at California institute of the Arts, she has worked in the US, India, Europe and, most gratefully, in South Africa.

PRODUCTION: Mountain Language [and Pinter] Sketches
VENUE: Wits Downstairs Theatre, East Campus, Braamfontein
Free parking is available in Senate House; the entrance is on Jorissen Street, Braamfontein
Tuesday 20 – Saturday 24 September 2016
20 – 23 September at 19h30; 24 September at 15h30 and 19h30
Tuesday 20 September at 19h30 (WitsTix)

RUNNING TIME: Seventy-five minutes no interval.
Full price R45.00
Discount for students and pensioners R30.00
WitsTix R10.00
Full price R50.00
Discount for students and pensioners R40.00
WitsTix R15.00

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