The 50th anniversary production will be helmed by the Lyric's artistic director, David Farr, opening on May 12 following previews that begin May 8. When The Birthday Party premiered on May 19, 1958, the play was dismissed by most critics. The Manchester Guardian (now The Guardian) described Pinter's dialogue as "half-gibberish and lunatic ravings." Milton Shulman in the Evening Standard concluded that although the plot and identity of his characters may be clear to Pinter, "he has certainly not divulged them to me."
The reviews were catastrophic for producer Michael Codron and Pinter, who was eking out a living in the kind of potboilers his later works like the The Caretaker and The Homecoming would subvert.
But Harold Hobson's review in the Sunday Times said said that Pinter was "the most original, disturbing and arresting talent in theatrical London."