Thom Yorke, the inimitable Munch screamer of our apocalyptic Anthropocene, is coming to Broadway. The Radiohead frontman has composed the music for Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Harold Pinter's Old Times, starring Eve Best, Kelly Reilly, and my man Clive Owen. Roundabout describes the play as an "unsettling drama of desire and blurred realities."
Owen is Deeley, a man quite looking forward to meeting Anna (Best), his wife Kate’s (Reilly) friend from long ago. But as the night goes on, Anna’s visit quickly shifts from an ordinary sharing of memories to a quiet battle for power. Douglas Hodge, a frequent performer and director of Pinter’s works, directs the haunting and passionate revival.
"The music Thom has written for Old Times gives an immediacy and a ‘now-ness’ to the show," Hodge, the director, said in a statement. "The play itself is about memory and love—Thom’s music works backwards and forwards and plays with time and repetition in the same way Pinter does. In true Thom Yorke-style, the music is epic, heartbreaking, irresistible and complex. I’m hopeful this collaboration will result in a new kind of theatergoer coming to our show."
Yorke says, "It’s been a pleasure working with Doug on my first stage production. I’ve enjoyed exploring through music the script’s themes of love and memory as well as Pinter’s rhythms, twists and turns." (Yorke will not be performing the music live.)
Yorke reportedly composed most of the music, which will be heard at the beginning and end of performances as well as during transitions, using synthesizers, in keeping with the play's 1970s setting. In an interview with the Times, Hodge explained their collaboration: "I’d say something like, ‘It describes a ribbon of light on the horizon. Can you do that?’ He’d say, ‘Got it.’ He’d send me an email of some music he’d written, and it would be some primeval, unusual thing. The sort of neurosis within his music certainly has elucidated elements of the compulsive repetition of the play."
Yorke, of course, isn't the first member of Radiohead to branch out into more traditional forms of composing. Bandmate Jonny Greenwood has been composing symphonic music for years now, and has also written the score for Paul Thomas Anderson's most recent films, including the criminally underrated Inherent Vice.
Radiohead is reportedly headed back to the studio in September to record their ninth album, which we can all agree is long overdue.
Old Times begins previews on September 17th, with an official opening on October 6th, and an expected closing on November 29th.