The Birthday Party (1957) is the second full-length play by Harold Pinter and one of Pinter's best-known and most-frequently performed plays. After its hostile London reception almost ended Pinter's playwriting career, it went on to be considered "a classic".
Produced by Michael Codron and David Hall, the play had its world première at the Arts Theatre, in Cambridge, England, on 28 April 1958, where the play was "warmly received" on its pre-London tour, in Oxford and Wolverhampton, where it also met with a "positive reception" as "the most enthralling experience the Grand Theatre has given us in many months."
On 19 May 1958, the production moved to the Lyric Opera House, Hammersmith (now the Lyric Hammersmith), for its début in London, where it was a commercial and mostly critical failure, instigating "bewildered hysteria" and closing after only eight performances. The weekend after it had already closed, Harold Hobson's belated rave review, "The Screw Turns Again", appeared in The Sunday Times, rescuing its critical reputation and enabling it to become one of the classics of the modern stage.
The Lyric celebrated the play's 50th anniversary with a revival, directed by artistic director David Farr, and related events from 8 to 24 May 2008, including a gala performance and reception hosted by Harold Pinter on 19 May 2008, exactly fifty years after its London première.