How Simon Gray and Pinter patched it up

LAST UPDATED AT 16:20 ON Fri 15 Aug 2008

Harold Pinter and his wife Lady Antonia Fraser led proceedings at the funeral of the hard-living playwright Simon Gray in Notting Hill on Friday. The service, with a large turn-out from the theatrical profession, was planned by the Pinters who live close by. But it might not have been had the two playwrights not patched up a famous squabble.

Gray and Pinter, close friends since the 1970s, nevertheless had a bad falling-out 20 years later. In Unnatural Pursuits, a 1993 TV adaptation of Gray's biting diary account of the staging of his play The Common Pursuit, Gray invented a character, Hector Duff, who was described as "the world's greatest playwright". He was pompous, domineering and espoused causes he didn't necessarily believe in.

The left-wing, anti-war Pinter saw it as a caricature of himself, took umbrage and, reportedly, the pair did not talk for two years.
 
In the end, they did patch things up both personally and professionally – Pinter directed nine of Gray's plays in all - but they always had a lively relationship. One famous theatre story has it that Pinter, the master of minimalism, wrote a poem about cricket. It read, in its entirety: "I saw Len Hutton in his prime; another time, another time."

This gem was circulated to friends and after a few weeks Pinter, hurt that he had not heard from Gray, telephoned him. "Have you got my poem? What do you think of it?" he inquired. "Er, yes, Harold. I haven't finished reading it," Gray replied. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.