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Family Voices exposes the story of a mother, son, and dead husband and father through a series of letters that the mother and son have written to one another and that each speaks aloud. The son has moved off to the city and is surrounded by odd characters and circumstances. The mother, who apparently never receives her son's letters, questions angrily why her son never responds to her letters, and brings news of his father's death. Towards the end of the play, the father speaks as it were from the grave, "Just to keep in touch" (81).
A series of interlocking monologues spoken by three Voices (One, Two, and Three), Family Voices exposes themes involving difficulties of communication, the vicissitudes of memory and the past, and family dysfunction familiar from Pinter's other dramatic works, employing some of Pinter's well-known stylistic traits. The peculiar circumstances of the characters evoke the Theatre of the Absurd. The mother and son continually have trouble communicating with each other, resulting in more intense attempts at communication that only serve to make the situation more absurd.
It was first broadcast as a radio play directed by Sir Peter Hall and performed by Michael Kitchen (Voice One), Peggy Ashcroft (Voice Two), and Mark Dignam (Voice Three) on BBC Radio 3 on 22 January 1981.
Subsequently, it was presented in a "platform performance" directed by Hall at London's Cottesloe Theatre with the same director and cast.
In October 1982, it was presented again as part of Other Places, along with two of Pinter's other works, a one-act play A Kind of Alaska and a shorter play Victoria Station, also directed by Hall. For this production, the cast included:
Other theatre personnel were:
- John Bury, Design and Lighting
- John Caulfield, Stage Manager
- Kenneth Mackintosh, Staff Director
- Jason Barnes, Production Manager
It was given lunchtime stage performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican Theatre in February and April 1987, with Mark Dignam repeating his role of Voice Three, but with Anton Lesser as Voice One and Ruby Head as Voice Two.
Another theatrical trilogy entitled Other Places, with Pinter's then-newer play One for the Road (1984) instead of Family Voices, was directed by Alan Schneider, in New York City. (This production is not listed on Pinter's official website.)
The play was first published in the United Kingdom in a spiral binding by Next Editions in 1981, with illustrations by artist Guy Vaesen, a family friend of Harold Pinter and Vivien Merchant, Pinter's first wife (Baker and Ross 85; Billingon, Harold Pinter 134–35).
Later, in 1983, it was published in a volume entitled Other Places, along with A Kind of Alaska and Victoria Station, by Grove Press, Pinter's American publisher, in both hardback and paperback editions (Baker and Ross 85–90).
- Harold Pinter: A Bibliographical History (Print). compilers: Baker, William; Ross, John C. London and Delaware: The British Library and New Castle: Oak Knoll Press. 2005. ISBN 978-1-58456-156-9.
- Billington, Michael (2007). Harold Pinter (Print) (2 ed.). London: Faber. ISBN 978-0-571-23476-9.
- Pinter, Harold (1983). Other Places: Three Plays (Print). New York: Grove Press. p. 63–83. ISBN 978-0-8021-5189-6.
- Pinter, Harold (1984). Other Places: Four Plays (Print). New York: Dramatists Play Service. ISBN 978-0-8222-0866-2.
- Family Voices – 1982 platform performances at the Cottesloe Theatre (NT).
- Family Voices – 1987 stage performances at the Barbican Theatre (Royal Shakespeare Company).
- Other Places – Listed in "Plays" section of haroldpinter.org. [Includes photograph of programme cover of Other Places (Cottesloe), details of that London première, and the retyped text of "The Withering of Love", a production review by Alan Jenkins originally published in the Times Literary Supplement (29 Oct 1982) and reproduced with permission.]
- Other Places: Four Plays by Harold Pinter (Dramatists Play Service). Google Books.