A Slight Ache

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First edition cover

A Slight Ache is a tragicomic play written by Harold Pinter in 1958 and first published by Methuen in London in 1961. It concerns a married couple's dreams and desires, focusing mostly on the husband's fears of the unknown, of growing old, and of the "Other" as a threat to his self-identity.


  • Edward
  • Flora
  • a Matchseller


One of the main themes involves one's insecurity about threats to one's self-identity embodied in the character of the matchseller, of whom one of the other two characters, Edward, is utterly terrified; the theme of growing old is also prevalent: according to Edward, the Matchseller is old, practically stone deaf, and has a glass eye[citation needed], and the middle-aged Edward and Flora continually reminisce about their youth throughout the play. Threat of the "Other" and obsessive romantic jealousy are also recurrent.


A Slight Ache premièred as a radio broadcast in 1959, prior to its first stage production. On radio, because the Matchseller does not speak in the play, he appeared to its audience to be a figment of Edward's imagination; the play has subsequently enjoyed a number of successful stage productions. In 2008 it was performed at the National Theatre, starring Simon Russell Beale and Clare Higgins, and directed by Iqbal Khan; the character of the matchseller appeared on the stage, played by Jamie Beamish.

External links[edit]

  • A Slight Ache in the "Plays" section of haroldpinter.org. Accessed October 26, 2007.