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Theatre / The Birthday Party

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A poster for the 1968 film adaptation, which starred Robert Shaw and Patrick Magee and was directed by William Friedkin.

The Birthday Party is a 1950s "Comedy of Menace" written by Harold Pinter. It concerns a boarding house on The Great British Seaside run by Mr and Mrs Bowles, a Happily Married couple, and their single tenant, Stanley Weber, a former concert pianist who seems to have come from nowhere. Life trudges by slowly until the annoucement of two guests arriving, two men who seem to have some sort of link with Stanley's Mysterious Past.

Nothing to do with Nick Cave's original band.



  • Affably Evil: Goldberg
  • Ambiguous Ending: It's not clear what Goldberg and McCann's organization intends to do to/with Stanley after they take him away. One possibility is that he's eventually killed, another is that he's brainwashed into being a loyal member of the organization again.
  • Berserk Button: Do not call Goldberg "Simey." This may be linked to the fact that it was his mother's nickname for him.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Stanley losing his glasses is a major plot point.
  • Brains and Brawn: The smaller, older Goldberg does most of the talking while interrogating/tormenting Stanley, while McCann doesn't say much but is much more physically imposing.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Meg. So much.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: It's implied that Stanley has some connection to Goldberg and McCann's shady organization. His claims about his past career as a concert pianist are often self-contradictory.
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  • The Dreaded: Goldberg. Hearing that he is coming sends Stanley into Heroic BSoD mode.
  • Eye Scream: Offscreen, Stanley tries to insert his broken glasses into his eyes.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: The superficially friendly, physically frail and older Goldberg is the "good cop" to the larger, younger, and quietly menacing McCann's "bad cop" when interrogating and tormenting Stanley.
  • Groin Attack: Stanley defends himself against Goldberg by kicking him in the groin before being subdued by the much more physically imposing McCann.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "Give me a blow!"
  • Kick the Dog: Most of Stanley's scenes with Meg have at least one case of this.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: Most of the characters.
  • The Münchausen: Goldberg again, Stanley also to some extent.
  • Oireland: McCann's background hints strongly at this.
  • Only Sane Man: Petey Bowles, but he is too scared to act.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Goldberg, to great extent
  • Take Our Word for It: Whatever happens to Stanley. It visibly shakes McCann and leaves Goldberg drained.
  • The Unseen: The mysterious Monty.
  • Villainous BSoD: After Stanley's offscreen torture.
  • Word-Salad Horror: Goldberg and McCann torment Stanley with strange non-sequiturs (at one point asking "Why did the chicken cross the road" out of the blue).