A Guide to Modern Playwrights, Plays, and Productions
Mountain Language

“Mountain Language(1988) is Harold Pinter’s harrowing distillation of the horrors inflicted by war upon ordinary people – mothers, daughters fathers, sons.  Its production by the Royal Court Theatre in London as a double bill with “Ashes to Ashes” in the summer of 200l, directed by Katie Mitchell, moved to New York the next year for the Pinter Festival at Lincoln Center.  In twenty minutes and four short, sharp scenes ushered in by the sounds of barking dogs, helicopter drones and metallic clashes, Pinter contrasts the victorious bullies, led by a sergeant, and the vanquished mountain people, women huddled in a line outside the prison where they have been waiting for eight hours in the snow to see their prisoner husbands.

In the visitors room, an elderly mother attempts to speak to her imprisoned son, but is prevented by the guard because the mountain language is forbidden.  In a second visit, the rules have been reversed; she is permitted to speak but cannot, at the sight of her bleeding, tortured son. The only language the sergeant understands is sexual, as understood by the nameless young woman who speaks for the group. The play was inspired by the Turkish treatment of the Kurds, but the outrages continue, as nightly television worldwide reports testify.