The Queen's Birthday Honours have seen two major theatrical talents recognized with major awards.
Harold Pinter, who is believed to have turned down a knighthood from the last Conservative government, is made a Companion of Honor — a rare award that, like the Order of Merit, recognizes a handful of people from different professions who have made major contributions to contemporary British culture.
Pinter is one of Britain's most distinguished living playwrights, whose work has been widely revived in recent years;the National ran a series of his Sketches earlier in 2002 along with a widely-praised revival of No Man's Land, where Corin Redgrave and John Wood played the parts made famous in the original 1970's production by Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir John Gielgud.
Pinter has worked extensively in film (including his superb adaptation of L. P. Hartley's The Go-Between, starring Julie Christie and Alan Bates), but it is for his stage plays that he is most famous, with their characteristic pauses in his dialogues and the way that his characters are often saying one thing but meaning or thinking another. Accepting a knighthood is Trevor — now Sir Trevor — Nunn, whose extraordinary career at the head of two subsidized national companies — the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National — has been matched by his flair as a director of major musicals, including Les Misérables.
Also honored were Jonathan Miller, the polymath director whose performing career began with Beyond the Fringe in the early 1960s, and who has gone on to be an internationally respected director of plays and, in particular, opera. His 1920's setting of The Mikado and his New York gangster version of Rigoletto have been two of English National Opera's most popular productions.
David Suchet, perhaps best known for the television role of Agatha Christie's Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, but who is also a superb stage actor — as he has reminded London in two productions in recent years (Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Aldwych and Amadeus at the Old Vic) — has been awarded an OBE.
An OBE has also gone to Danny La Rue, the legendary drag artist who remains the only male ever to have starred in a West End musical as a woman — when he played Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! at the Prince of Wales in the early 1980's.
—By Paul Webb Theatrenow