Anda di halaman 1dari 433

Prelims (1).

qxp 2/4/07 16:43 Page i

The
Theatre
Guide
Prelims (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:43 Page ii
Prelims (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:43 Page iii

  The
Theatre
Guide  

Trevor R. Griffiths

A & C Black
Prelims (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:43 Page iv

Third edition 2003


A & C Black Publishers Limited
37 Soho Square
London W1D 3QZ
www.acblack.com

© 2003 Trevor R. Griffiths


ISBN 0-7136-6171-2
eISBN-13: 978-1-4081-0313-5
First published 1988
Second edition 1991
Bloomsbury Publishing Limited

© 1988 and 1991 Trevor R. Griffiths and Carole Woddis

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means
– graphic, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or information
storage and retrieval systems – without the written permission of A & C Black Publishers
Limited.

A & C Black uses paper produced with elemental chlorine-free pulp, harvested from managed
sustainable forests.

Printed and bound in the United Kingdom by


Cromwell Press Limited, Trowbridge
Prelims (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:43 Page v

  Contents 

Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vi
How to use this book . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vii
Acknowledgements. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . viii
Theatre Guide A–Z . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1–375
Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 376
Prelims (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:43 Page vi

vi

Introduction
The Theatre Guide is a theatre reference book with a difference because it concentrates on the
writers and the plays you are actually likely to be able to see in the theatre now, rather than the
writers who stay in theatre reference books because they have always been there, even though
no one has staged their plays for generations. Its other unique feature is a cross-referencing
system that allows you to find other plays or authors that have tackled similar topics, share
similar interests or offer marked contrasts to the ones you started from; and when you look at
those further entries you will find more cross-references that can lead you on a sometimes
surprising journey of discovery that could give added enjoyment to your appreciation and
understanding of theatre.
Compared to previous editions, the emphasis is now on writers alone, although material
from generic or company entries has been subsumed elsewhere. Some ninety new writers have
been added, reflecting the very exciting new writing scene in Britain and Ireland in the last
decade. In making choices for inclusion in this edition, one of the key criteria was that at least
some of the work of the writers should have been published at some point so that you could
read their plays if there were no current productions. The only exception to this rule is where
there is work published in video form. In a few cases writers who haven’t had a recent
production are included because, for example, work like theirs or from their period appears to
be coming into fashion again and they may be next in line. One of the joys of compiling this
book has been the exciting sense of discovery as new writers emerge and revivals of long-lost
plays and playwrights suddenly demonstrate their enduring worth and contribute to the vitality
of the current theatrical repertory.
Prelims (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:43 Page vii

vii

How to use this book


The Theatre Guide is divided into an alphabetical list of over 550 main entries covering
individual dramatists, and an index of play titles, theatre people and institutions.
If you know an author’s name, you can look it up in the main alphabetical list or in the index
(where the author’s main entry is printed in bold). If you know a play’s title, you can look it up
in the index. The symbol ‘ in front of a dramatist’s name indicates that they have their own
main entry.
Each main entry for an individual writer follows a standard format, with a list of plays,
discussion of the writers and a list of cross-references. For some writers there is also a key play
selected for more detailed treatment. There are sometimes difficulties in ascertaining the dates
of writers’ births and deaths but where there is known doubt it is indicated by the use of c. (for
circa) by that doubtful date The dates given for the plays are, wherever possible, those of their
first public appearance, whether in production or in print, but in some cases there may be
uncertainty about the exact order of composition and/or production of plays. Wherever
possible, alternative titles and revised versions of plays going under different titles have been
given, but a glance at the entry for John Byrne will show the scope of the problem. It is not
possible to include all the plays written by all the writers, and references to their awards and
film, television, radio, translation, adaptation and other writing credits are very selective. In the
case of foreign-language plays, familiar English titles are given where they exist and literal
translations where they don’t. The author and publishers would be grateful if any corrections
to matters of fact and suggestions for future editions were sent to the publishers.
Prelims (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:43 Page viii

viii

Acknowledgements
Trevor R. Griffiths was helped in creating this third edition of the Theatre Guide by the
exemplary research assistance of Steve Tippett and the IT skills of Sara Griffiths. The first two
editions of The Theatre Guide were compiled and edited by Trevor R Griffiths and Carole
Woddis with original contributions from the following: Clare Bayley, Annika Bluhm, Mary
Brennan, Alastair Cording, Eileen E. Cottis, Nick Curtis, Luke Dixon, Marguerite Feitlowitz,
Mira Felner, Alexis Greene, Andrew B. Harris, Naseem Khan, Howard Loxton, Walter J.
Meserve, Kent Neely, M. Elizabeth Osborn, Janice Paran, Deborah Philips, Christine A.
Pinkowicz, Judith Piper, Nancy Riley, Marc Robinson, Rachel B. Shteir, Matt Wolf. Particular
thanks are due to Professor Mira Felner of Hunter College, New York, for her invaluable
support and assistance on the second edition. Each existing entry has been scrutinised and
updated for this edition by Trevor R. Griffiths. Many thanks to all the agents (and some of the
playwrights themselves), press officers, publishers and literary managers who supplied
information, sometimes at very short notice, and to Tesni Holland of A & C Black for her faith
in the project.
A Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:02 Page 1

 
A 
ABBENSETTS, Michael [1938 – ] ABBOTT, George [1887 – 1995]
Guyanan-born British dramatist American writer and director and producer of
PLAYS INCLUDE:
musicals
Sweet Talk (1973), Alterations (1978), Samba PLAYS AND MUSICALS INCLUDE:
(1980), In the Mood (1981), The Dark Horse Three Men on a Horse (1935, with John Cecil
(1981), El Dorado (1983), Outlaw (1983), Holm), On Your Toes (1936, with Rodgers
Living Together (1988), The Lion (1993) and Hart), The Boys from Syracuse (1938,
based on SHAKESPEARE’S Comedy of Errors),
Abbensetts was the first Caribbean writer to
Beat the Band (1942, with George Marion
have a television series in Britain, with Empire
Jr), Where’s Charley? (1948), A Tree Grows in
Road (1978). Before that he had already had
Brooklyn (1951, with Betsy Smith), The
success with Sweet Talk, Alterations, a tele-
Pajama Game (1954, with Richard Bissell),
vision play The Museum Attendant (1973) and
Damn Yankees (1955, with Douglas Wallop),
radio plays. The secret of Abbensetts’ success
Fiorello (1959, with Jerome Weidman),
is his ability to write situation comedies
Tropicana (1985), Frankie (1989)
whose characters and human predicaments
strike a common chord and appear, therefore, Author or co-author of over fifty plays and
to have a universal appeal. However, although musicals, and a legendary director and pro-
race is not the overt theme, under the comic, ducer, Abbott was responsible for producing
often genially satirical veneer, the plays reveal and directing some of Broadway’s greatest
the bitter legacies of colonialism and emigra- classics, such as Pal Joey, Call Me Madam and
tion as seen through the frustrations, aspira- On Your Toes. Abbott spins his plays and musi-
tions and tragedies of the ordinary British cals on the corniest of plots – in Damn Yankees
black man-in-the-street. He deals with mari- it is a losing baseball team; in Three Men on a
tal problems (Sweet Talk), and the price to be Horse it is a natural gift for winning. But there
paid for ambition (Alterations), with the is often a twist: Damn Yankees also has a touch
pathos of individuals who have seen better of Faust thrown in (the baseball fan sells his
days (Samba), and with those who fought for soul to the devil); Three Men on a Horse clev-
the ‘mother country’ (In the Mood). erly ridicules the American obsession with
Sweet Talk, his most popular play, has been winning, turning it equally into a celebration
produced in Nigeria (the World Black Arts of generous moral decency and the triumph of
Festival 1977), New York, Kenya, Canada and the little man over the system; and whilst The
throughout the Caribbean. Pajama Game may be about boy meets girl,
she’s a shop steward and he’s the management
TRY THESE: stooge out to stop her from earning a few cents
MATURA ,  WALCOTT ,  WHITE for the painful more an hour. As one might expect, a good
personal legacies of colonialism;  KUREISHI and moral message gets stirred in along with the
 MATURA for ‘mother country’ disillusionment; comedy. Abott remained active in the theatre
 RHONE for a similar use of sitcom;  CROSS , well beyond his hundredth birthday.
 IKOLI ,  PHILLIPS have all focused on the
British black experience;  SAMM-ART WILLIAMS TRY THESE:
for American equivalents. Frank Loesser’s Guys and Dolls for its array of
gamblers and lowlife characters; BRECHT ’s
Schweik in the Second World War for the triumph
A Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:02 Page 2

2 ACKLAND, Rodney
of the ‘little man’; KAUFMAN AND HART for they usually try the short and Kafkaesque
celebrations of the amiable eccentric; dream play Professor Taranne, but there are
WERTENBAKER for Faustian bargains. more interesting possibilities in his later work.
His 1950s plays are dream-like and obsession-
al, dealing with his urges to suicide, fear of
ACKLAND, Rodney [1908 – 91] impotence, and general masochism, and his
British dramatist name then tended to be bracketed with those
of BECKETT and IONESCO . However there
PLAYS INCLUDE:
are signs of his later political interests in Ping-
Improper People (1929), Strange Orchestra
Pong, in which two men spend their lives
(1931), After October (1936), The Dark River
developing a better electric pin-ball machine,
(1942), The Pink Room (1951, revised as
a heavy-handed symbol for capitalism.
Absolute Hell, 1987)
With the coming of the Algerian War he
Ackland was a successful screen writer and turned to political plays, notably Paolo Paoli,
dramatist whose work had fallen into total which uses the trade in ostrich feathers and rare
neglect before the director Sam Walters suc- butterflies to make anti-capitalist points about
cessfully revived The Dark River at the Orange the belle époque. Off Limits, set in the USA at
Tree, Richmond, in 1985. Absolute Hell, a the time of the Vietnam War, is built around a
revised version of a play that had been con- series of parties where the middle-aged drink
demned by the impresario Binkie Beaumont as and the young take dope, each scene inter-
‘a libel on the British people’, followed at the rupted by games or agit-prop sketches.
Orange Tree. It was then staged at the National
Theatre with Judi Dench as the hostess of the TRY THESE:
bohemian drinking club in which a hotch- STRINDBERG for the early dream plays;
potch of the disaffected and the distraught BRECHT for the later political plays; TREVOR
while away their lives in a desperate haze of GRIFFITHS ’ The Party for another party at a time of
angst and alcohol. The production’s success re- political strife; TERRY ’s Viet Rock, for an anti-
established Ackland’s reputation as a dramatist. Vietnam American satire; VAN ITALLIE ’s America
After October was staged at Chichester in 1997. Hurrah for more anti-US satire.
TRY THESE:
O’NEILL ’s The Iceman Cometh for an American ADSHEAD, Kay [1954 – ]
take on the bar room of the damned; Bridget British actor and dramatist
Boland’s Cockpit for another post-war microcosm.
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Thatcher’s Women (1987), The Bogus Woman
(2000)
ADAMOV, Arthur [1908 – 70]
French dramatist Adshead has written plays for children and for
television. Thatcher’s Women, presented origi-
PLAYS INCLUDE:
nally by Paines Plough, tells the story of a
La Parodie (1950, The Parody), La Grande et
northern middle-aged wife pushed reluctantly
la Petite Manoeuvre (1950, The Great and the
to the south of England and into prostitution
Small Manoeuvre), Le Professeur Taranne
by her husband’s unemployment. One of a
(1953, Professor Taranne), Le Ping-Pong
rash of plays on similar topics inspired (sic) by
(1955, Ping-Pong), Paolo Paoli (1957),
the ‘Thatcher decade’ and showing the effect
Printemps 71 (1962, Spring of 71), Sainte
of economic policies impinging on private
Europe (1966, Holy Europe), Off Limits (1968)
lives, Adshead’s is a spirited if uneven play – a
Adamov made a precarious literary living in kind of ‘School in Unsentimental Education
Paris in the 1920s and 1930s, when he was a or How I Learned to Stop Feeling and Just
friend of  ARTAUD and linked with the Play the Game’. The Bogus Woman, another
Surrealists. His plays are sometimes put on by fact-based play founded on detailed research,
non-professional or university groups, and deals movingly with another social issue, the
A Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:02 Page 3

ALBEE, Edward 3

treatment of refugees and their demonisation Mourning Becomes Electra updates it to New
as ‘bogus’ asylum seekers. England.

TRY THESE:
Julia Schofield’s Love on the Plastic and TERSON ’s ALBEE, Edward [1928 – ]
Strippers make similar links between unemploy- American dramatist
ment and female exploitation; MEYER ’s Etta
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Jenks for an American parallel. For contrast, see The Zoo Story (1959), The Death of Bessie
Stars in the Morning Sky by Alexander Galin, a Smith (1960), The Sandbox (1960), Fam and
more melodramatic view of prostitutes;
Yam (1961), The American Dream (1961),
HORSFIELD for a contemporary northern
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962), Tiny
ambience.
Alice (1964), A Delicate Balance (1966), Box
and Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-
Tung (1968), All Over (1971), Seascape
AESCHYLUS [c. 525 – 456 BC] (1975), Counting the Ways (1976), Listening
Greek dramatist (1976), The Lady from Dubuque (1980), The
SURVIVING PLAYS: Man Who Had Three Arms (1983), The
The Persians (472 BC), The Seven Against Marriage Play (1988), Three Tall Women
Thebes (469 BC), The Oresteian Trilogy (458 (1991), Fragments (1993), The Play about the
BC, Agammemnon, Choephoroi or Libation Baby (1997), The Goat, or Who is Sylvia
Bearers, Eumenides), The Suppliant Women, (2000), Occupant (2001)
Prometheus Bound (dates unknown)
The adopted grandson of Edward Franklin
Aeschylus is credited with two of the major Albee, a vaudeville theatre owner and manager,
innovations in Greek drama: the introduction Albee leaped to the forefront of the American
of a second actor (which made possible dia- theatre scene in the 1960s with his early plays.
logue that did not involve the chorus, thus Zoo Story, The American Dream and The
opening the way for greater dramatic flexibil- Sandbox, evocative of early IONESCO and
ity), and the reduction in size (and therefore BECKETT both in style and thematic explo-
importance) of the chorus. The Persians is ration of alienation, provided the United
particularly interesting for presenting the States with a dramatist in the tradition of the
recent defeat of the Persians at the Battle of European avant-garde. His subsequent plays –
Marathon from a sympathetic viewpoint. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Tiny Alice and
Aeschylus’ hold on the current repertory A Delicate Balance – are more Pinteresque in
derives almost entirely from The Oresteia, the style, raising the question of whether or not
only complete trilogy to survive from the clas- Albee found his own voice or has remained
sical Greek theatre. It tells the story of the royal derivative in form and content. In recent
house of Atreus in which crime breeds crime years, Albee has been less prolific, preferring
over the generations until the goddess Athene to spend his time directing his own works and
intervenes to substitute reconciliation and jus- teaching. He is vehement in his protection of
tice for the blind process of revenge. Peter Hall the dramatist against directorial excess and
directed a memorable all-male version for the has had an active voice in public debate on the
National Theatre in 1981, adapted by TONY subject of stage interpretation.
HARRISON , and it was staged again there in
1999 in a version by Ted Hughes directed by Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Katie Mitchell. Albee’s commercial success is largely based on
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, performed on
TRY THESE: Broadway by Uta Hagen and Arthur Hill, and
ARISTOPHANES , EURIPIDES , MENANDER and later in the film version by Elizabeth Taylor
SOPHOCLES wrote the other surviving Greek and Richard Burton. The play is set in a small
plays; ELIOT ’s The Family Reunion updates the college town and focuses on the relationship
Orestes myth to 1930s England and O’NEILL ’s between a professor and his wife, the daughter
A Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:02 Page 4

4 ALBEE, Edward

The Oresteia by Aeschylus in a version by Ted Hughes, directed by Katie Mitchell, National Theatre,
1999. Lilo Baur as Cassandra. (Colin Willoughby/ArenaPAL)
A Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:02 Page 5

ANOUILH, Jean 5

of the college president, as they drag a young Blood for further British Asians’ experience; for
faculty couple into their elaborate power images of the East End, KEEFFE ’s My Girl and
games. The play explores the force of fantasy, MARCHANT ’s The Lucky Ones; LEIGH ’s Greek
as the amorphous boundaries between Tragedy shows a Greek immigrant community in
appearance and reality are taxed during Sydney at the end of their tether; MILLER for
vicious marital sparring. immigrants and the sense of community.

TRY THESE:
GUARE ’s The Loveliest Afternoon of the Year for ANOUILH, Jean [1910 – 87]
terror in New York’s Central Park; MILLER ’s Death French dramatist
of a Salesman for another view of the defunct PLAYS INCLUDE:
American dream; DURANG , TENNESSEE
Le Bal de Voleurs (1932, Thieves’ Carnival),
WILLIAMS , HENLEY for American explorations of
La Sauvage (1934, The Restless Heart),
dysfunctional families.
L’Eocadia (1940, Time Remembered), Le
Rendezvous de Senlis (1941, Dinner with the
Family), Eurydice (1941, Point of Departure),
ALRAWI, Karim [1953 – ]
Antigone (1942), Medée (1946, Medea),
Anglo-Egyptian dramatist Roméo et Jeanette (1946, Romeo and
PLAYS INCLUDE: Jeanette), L’Invitation au Château (1947, Ring
Aliens (1980), Before Dawn (1981), Migrations Round the Moon), Ardèle ou La Marguerite
(1982), Divide and Rule (1983), In Self- (1948, Ardèle: The Cry of the Peacock), La
Defence (1983), A Colder Climate (1986), A Répétition ou L’Amour Puni (1950, The
Child in the Heart (1987), Promised Land Rehearsal), La Valse des Toréadors (1952,
(1988), Crossing the Water (1991) Waltz of the Toreadors), L’Alouette (1953, The
Lark), Pauvre Bitos ou le Dîner de Têtes
Alrawi was brought up in Egypt and left for
(1956, Poor Bitos or the Masked Diner),
Britain at the age of fourteen to live in
L’Honneur de Dieu (1959, Becket)
London’s East End. He has never forgotten the
sense of dislocation the move produced in him Anouilh’s popularity and influence were at
or the racial prejudice he experienced in their height in the immediate post-World War
English schools. Migrations (a reworking of II period. Known for his exquisite craftsman-
Before Dawn that won a John Whiting Award) ship, in later years his work appeared to take
looks at issues of religion and culture, integra- on a whimsical tone. Anouilh himself cate-
tion and local-authority corruption through gorised his plays into pièces roses (rosy, such as
the eyes of an old Jewish stall-holder, his young Dinner with the Family or Time Remembered),
Pakistani assistant, and his dilemma-prone sis- pièces noires (dark, which include the three
ter. A Colder Climate is a bold, not altogether Greek-based tragedies, Eurydice (Point of
successful, attempt to comment on Thatcher’s Departure), Antigone and Medea, as well as
Britain, showing racism and National Front Romeo and Jeanette), pièces brillantes (spark-
attitudes filtering through into the behaviour ling, such as Ring Round the Moon), pièces
of a group of contemporary East End charac- grinçantes (grating, Ardèle or Waltz of the
ters. A Child in the Heart pulled no punches in Toreadors), and pièces costumées (costume or
its criticism of the West’s cultural exploitation historical plays such as Becket, or The Lark,
of the Third World and, in its almost Old which is about St Joan). Anouilh’s plays seem
Testament insistence on sticking to Tribe, it was haunted by certain private and obsessive con-
consistent with Alrawi’s ongoing concern with cerns: the corruption of innocence, the pain
the nature of cultural identity. of human existence, its ugliness and compro-
mise, the incompatibility of happiness with
TRY THESE: purity, the clash between the inner and outer
KUREISHI ’s Borderline for images of National worlds, the conflict between past and present,
Frontism and Asian girls in conflict with their and later in life, loneliness. Above all, as
traditional culture; BAINS ’ The Fighting Kite and Harold Hobson put it, talking about Antigone,
A Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:02 Page 6

6 ANOUILH, Jean

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee, directed by Howard Davies, Almeida Theatre, 1997.
Diana Rigg as Martha, David Suchet as George. (Richard Mildenhall/ArenaPAL)
A Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:02 Page 7

ARBUZOV, Aleksei Nicolaevich 7

there was bitterness and regret at the contrast personal emotion. To what extent Anouilh
between ‘what life could be and what life was’. sympathises with Creon’s response remains a
Anouilh’s early plays, however, show the question for conjecture.
bitterness leavened by laughter and strongly
influenced by the form and gloss of TRY THESE:
MARIVAUX (for example, the Pirandellian PIRANDELLO ; SARTRE ’s Les Mouches for
play-within-a-play The Rehearsal, where another wartime play subversively attacking the
behind brilliant comic dialogue you can Vichy regime; SHAW for another treatment of St
detect a typical confrontation between purity Joan; RATTIGAN for other personal pains treated
and the artifice of the aristocratic world). In with similar skill.
Ring Round the Moon the crippled old lady
exploiting her power by rearranging the lives
of those around her is another veneer for the ARBUZOV, Aleksei
playing out of a deeper battle between power Nicolaevich [1908 – 86]
and money on the one hand, and poverty and Russian dramatist, actor and director
purity on the other.
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Anouilh’s heroines or heroes frequently sac-
Tanya (1939), It Happened in Irkutsk (1959),
rifice themselves for a nobler cause. Becket and
The Promise (1965, also known as My Poor
Joan in The Lark are both martyrs to their faith
Marat), Tales of Old Arbat (1970), An Old
and purity, a theme re-enacted in Antigone and
Fashioned Comedy (1978, also known as Do
by Orpheus and Eurydice, Romeo and
You Turn Somersaults?)
Jeanette, and even Medea. Poor Bitos, about the
humiliation of a smug communist deputy at a A prolific dramatist who ranges from
party where the guests are dressed in Revo- ‘Brechtian’ techniques to the sentimental,
lutionary costume, is also seen by some as melodramatic and near vaudeville, Arbuzov’s
Anouilh’s self-portrait etched in self-disgust. first big success was Tanya. His most popular
Currently Anouilh appears to be making play in the USSR was probably It Happened in
something of a minor come-back in the grow- Irkutsk, a personal drama set against the con-
ing re-evaluation of works of the 1950s, but struction of a power station in Siberia, using a
he has not had a recent major revival with one Brechtian chorus, but in the West he is best
of the national companies or in the West End. known for The Promise, which was last
revived in London in 2002. Like many of his
Antigone plays it spans a long period, presenting the
Antigone was written against a background of interaction of a woman and two men –
the German occupation: some saw it as an would-be doctor, poet and bridge-builder – in
apologia for the Nazis, others as a statement Leningrad in 1942, at the time of post-war
against them. The play follows SOPHOCLES reconstruction (1946) and post-Stalin (1959)
but is typical Anouilh in its heroine’s option in the same Leningrad flat. Though the
for the purity of death rather than the muck- development of their romantic relationships
iness and compromise of life. Sophocles’ ver- is somewhat predictable, it is the most tightly
sion dices with the conflict between secular written of his plays.
and divine law (another, more modern and
interesting reading could see it as a reasser- TRY THESE:
tion of the female and instinctual over man- WHITEMORE’s The Best of Friends for an affection-
made law), but Anouilh’s Antigone is not so ate look at English friendships over a long time
much the victim of an unjust law as a martyr span; ROBERT HOLMAN’s Today for contrasting
to purity. Creon argues with her and, unlike views of English idealism pre- and post-war;
Sophocles’ Creon who is thoroughly guilt- COLLINS’ The Strongest Man in the World for a per-
stricken for the trail of tragedies his decisions sonal drama set ostensibly in the Soviet
have provoked, Anouilh’s Creon is a thor- community; Peter Arnott’s White Rose, an elegant,
oughly modern pragmatist who puts duty – somewhat Brechtian play about a female Russian
upholding the security of the state – above fighter pilot; BRECHT and CHEKHOV for contrast.
A Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:02 Page 8

8 ARDEN, John
ARDEN, John [1930– ] The Non-Stop Connolly Show is a pro-Irish
English dramatist and collaborator with Republican epic which, according to Arden’s
Margaretta D’Arcy biographer, Albert Hunt, should be regarded
as a masterpiece. Unsurprisingly this political
PLAYS INCLUDE:
emphasis led to legal difficulties, accusations
All Fall Down (1955), The Waters of Babylon
of censorship and their effective withdrawal
(1957), Live Like Pigs (1958), Serjeant
from the British theatre. Instead Arden’s and,
Musgrave’s Dance (1959), The Happy Haven
to some extent, D’Arcy’s recent work has been
(1960, with D’Arcy), The Business of Good
in the novel and radio, culminating in Whose
Government (1960), Ironhand (1963), The
is the Kingdom?, a 1988 nine-part BBC radio
Workhouse Donkey (1964), Armstrong’s Last
series on early Christianity, a theme which has
Goodnight (1964), Ars Longa, Vita Brevis
run through several of Arden’s plays.
(1965, with D’Arcy), Left Handed Liberty
Always a moralist, Arden’s dissenting voice
(1965), The Royal Pardon or, The Soldier Who
has increasingly swung away from the earlier
Became an Actor (1966, with D’Arcy), The
anarchic detachment where there are no heroes
True History of Squire Jonathan and His
(even the so-called pacifism of Serjeant
Unfortunate Treasure (1968), The Hero Rises
Musgrave’s Dance is hotly disputed by some
Up (1968, with D’Arcy), Harold Muggins is a
commentators, who feel it is difficult to decide
Martyr (1968, with D’Arcy), 200 Years of
which side Arden’s sympathies are on), through
Labour History (1971, with D’Arcy) The
political activism to revolutionary socialism by
Ballygombeen Bequest (1972, with D’Arcy),
the late 1970s. Others, however, argue that the
The Island of the Mighty (1972, with D’Arcy),
seeds of Arden the revolutionary were implicit
The Non-Stop Connolly Show (1975, with
from the beginning, particularly in the fact that
D’Arcy), The Little Gray Home in the West
the plays were usually sparked off by historical
(1978, with D’Arcy), Vandaleur’s Folly (1978,
and contemporary political events. Armstrong’s
with D’Arcy)
Last Goodnight, for example, though set in
Barnsley born, a student of architecture and, in sixteenth-century Scotland, was inspired by the
his own words, ‘a product of English public Congo War and intended as an analogous,
schools and three years as a conscript in moral parable on the subject of violence.
Scotland’, Arden began writing plays at univer- Written in Lowland verse, it emerged as a
sity Considered one of the most influential rumbustious, sardonic study in realpolitik,
political dramatists of his generation, Arden’s opposing the urbane politician (Lindsay) with
output has been indelibly influenced by his the highland rebel, Johnny Armstrong.
meeting with Margaretta D’Arcy in 1955. Arden, from the beginning, rejected
D’Arcy started her career in Dublin in small naturalism and though his plays were about
experimental theatres, after which. she went to social, political and economic issues – small-
London where she acted in club theatres and at town corruption (The Workhouse Donkey),
the Hornchurch Rep, one of the first regional the welfare state (Live Like Pigs), violence and
companies to be local-authority funded. Her militarism (Serjeant Musgrave’s Dance) – his
involvement with community theatre stems use of bold, imagistic techniques – epics,
from these early experiences, and much of her parables, sometimes grotesque comedy – and
writing has been community-orientated. the fact that they have an obvious polemical
Most of Arden’s major stage plays intent, inevitably led to Arden being
appeared in a ten-year period from the late compared with BRECHT , an influence he has
1950s to the late 1960s, ceasing abruptly after always denied. Yet other observers, playing the
a famous if painful controversy over the RSC’s influence game, detect a kinship with BEN
handling of The Island of the Mighty. Arden JONSON and ARISTOPHANES in such plays as
and D’Arcy’s work was developing an increas- The Workhouse Donkey.
ingly anti-English, pro-Irish and community
stance: The Hero Rises Up is an anti-heroic Serjeant Musgrave’s Dance
view of Nelson; The Ballygombeen Bequest is A small group of soldiers invade a bleak
an attack on absentee landlordism in Ireland; mining town in northern England in the
A Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:02 Page 9

ARISTOPHANES 9

1880s, ostensibly on a recruiting drive. But the TRY THESE:


men are deserters, and their leader, Serjeant PIRANDELLO ’s Six Characters in Search of an
Musgrave, who has become fanatically anti- Author for its use of ‘unfinished’ characters;
war, is as terrifying in his religious zeal as the EDGAR ’s Maydays deals with the Hungarian
evil against which he inveighs: he demands uprising which is the subject of Shadow of Heroes;
the death of twenty-five townspeople to BARRIE ’s Mary Rose for ghosts; BARAKA ,
match the death of a local boy who died in a BULLINS , HANSBERRY ’s A Raisin in the Sun,
colonial war and who was the trigger, in AUGUST WILSON for racism.
reprisal, for the death of five men. A male-
oriented play, where women are seen either as
whores (sexual and dangerous) or mothers ARISTOPHANES [c. 450 – 385 BC]
(asexual and comforting), it seems hard in Greek comic dramatist
retrospect to see it as anything other than a
SURVIVING PLAYS:
passionately pacifist, anti-imperialist play.
The Acharnians (425 BC), The Knights (424
BC), The Clouds (423 BC), The Wasps (422
TRY THESE:
BC), Peace (421 BC), The Birds (414 BC),
BARNES for similar epic treatments of historical
Lysistrata (411 BC), The Thesmophoriazousae
subjects; OSBORNE ’s A Patriot for Me for another
(410 BC, sometimes called Women at the
army play with echoes of male sexual fear of
Festival or The Poet and the Women or
women (also Look Back in Anger); for contrasting
Women at the Thesmophoria), The Frogs (405
treatment of Nelson to The Hero Rises Up,
BC), Ecclesiazousae (392 BC, sometimes
RATTIGAN ’s Bequest to the Nation; for scrutiny of
called Women in Parliament), Wealth (388
American national figures, KOPIT ’s Indians; for
BC, sometimes called Plutus)
small-town corruption, AYCKBOURN , BRENTON
and HARE ’s Brassneck, FLANNERY ’s Our Friends Aristophanes’ plays, the only surviving repre-
in the North, GOGOL ’s The Government Inspector; sentatives of Greek Old Comedy, used to be
JOHN MCGRATH adapted Serjeant Musgrave’s infrequently performed in the contemporary
Dance. professional theatre. Although it is far from a
feminist play, Lysistrata has continued to be
staged fairly regularly both because of its con-
ARDREY, Robert [1908 – 80] centration on sexual politics and because of
American scientist and dramatist its anti-war message. However, the growing
willingness to stage adaptations and transla-
PLAYS INCLUDE:
tions and the increasing emphasis on physical
Thunder Rock (1939), Jeb (1946), Shadow of
theatre in Britain has begun to re-establish
Heroes (1958)
Aristophanes’ work in the current repertory,
Probably best known today for his scientific with recent productions of The Frogs and, less
theory of ‘the territorial imperative’, Ardrey successfully, The Birds (National Theatre,
worked for most of his career as a dramatist 2002). In Stephen Sondheim and Burt Sheve-
and screenwriter. Thunder Rock, first staged at love’s 1974 musical version of The Frogs,
the beginning of World War II, receives very staged originally in a swimming pool at Yale
occasional starry revivals. It is an atmospheric University with a cast including CHRISTO-
allegorical piece in which a lighthouse keep- PHER DURANG , Meryl Streep and Sigourney
er’s encounters with the spirits of ship- Weaver, SHAW and SHAKESPEARE replace
wrecked travellers rekindle his fighting spirit. AESCHYLUS and EURIPIDES as the drama-
Jeb, an investigation of racism in the tists who might be restored to life.
American South, was uncomfortably enough
in advance of its time to be commercially TRY THESE:
unsuccessful. AESCHYLUS , EURIPIDES , SOPHOCLES for
Greek tragic drama; Menander for later Greek
comedy; Plautus and Terence for Roman comedy;
LITTLEWOOD and THEATRE WORKSHOP ’s Oh
What a Lovely War for blending popular forms.
A Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:02 Page 10

10 ARISTOPHANES

The Birds by Aristophanes in a version by Sean O’Brien directed by Kathryn Hunter, National Theatre
and Mamaloucos Circus, 2002. Franky Mwangi as Sparrow, Josette Bushell-Mingo as Hoopoe.
(Stephen Vaughan/ArenaPAL)
A Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:02 Page 11

ARTAUD, Antonin 11

ARRABAL, Fernando [1932 – ] It is possible, but misleading, to regard Artaud


Spanish dramatist born in Spanish Morocco, who as the archetypal mad genius. Badly affected by
writes in French meningitis when young, he spent much of his
life struggling against an addiction to drugs,
PLAYS INCLUDE:
and much of the rest in lunatic asylums. He is
Les Deux Bourreaux (1958, The Two
also one of the most important and seminal
Executioners), Le Cimetière des Voitures
theatrical thinkers of the twentieth century,
(1964, The Vehicle Graveyard), Fando et Lis
with a considerable (but disputed) influence
(1964, Fando and Lis), L’Architecte et
on a wide variety of authors and especially
1’Empereur d’Assyrie (1967, The Architect and
directors. His principal theoretical work, Le
the Emperor of Assyria), Et ils Passerent des
Théâtre et son Double, influenced by his partial
Menottes aux Fleurs (1969, And They Put
understanding of performances of Cambodian
Handcuffs on the Flowers)
and Balinese dance, recommended a ‘total the-
Arrabal’s voluminous output of plays reflects atre’ that would use sound, light, gesture and
his nightmarish childhood, during which his visual image rather than relying on the
father mysteriously disappeared from prison written or even the spoken word, to disturb
at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War and fundamentally the imagination and subcon-
his mother tried to behave as though his scious of audience and actors alike; it has in
father had never existed. Unresolved difficul- different ways influenced Barrault, Peter
ties over this, plus a strict Spanish Catholic Brook, MAROWITZ , Grotowski, ADAMOV ,
upbringing, have led to a number of sado- ARRABAL , GENET , Pip Simmons, Julian
masochistic plays filled with disturbing Beck, and the Open Theatre – partly because it
images of torture, suffering, blasphemy and is full of memorable but somewhat gnomic
eroticism, often involving members of the pronouncements which one can interpret to
same family, at which one is horrified to find suit one’s own inclinations (e.g. ‘We are not
oneself laughing. In The Architect and the free, and the sky can still fall on our heads; and
Emperor of Assyria, two men stranded on a the theatre exists to remind us of this fact’).
desert island play a series of games, exchang- Artaud’s life is sometimes treated as myth
ing roles of master and slave, mother and (as with DYLAN THOMAS and Marie Lloyd)
child, victim and executioner, until finally one and used as matter for plays, such as
eats the other. The play owes something to MAROWITZ ’s Artaud at Rodez.
ARTAUD and BECKETT , but also to Lewis Jet of Blood is less than four pages long, but
Carroll, whom Arrabal greatly admires. manages to touch on many obsessions –
Arrabal has never been particularly popular Artaud’s and our own. It would be very un-
in the British professional theatre, Artaudian to describe the plot, but the follow-
ing stage directions give the flavour: ‘The
TRY THESE: Whore bites God’s wrist. An immense jet of
PIRANDELLO for role-swapping; GENET for blood shoots across the stage, and we can see
role-playing; WALCOTT ’s Pantomime is a varia- the Priest making the sign of the cross during a
tion on the master–slave theme. flash of lightning that lasts longer than the oth-
ers.’ ‘An army of scorpions comes out from
under the Nurse’s dress and swarms over her
ARTAUD, Antonin [1896 – 1948] sex, which swells up and bursts, becoming
French actor, director, theorist glassy and shining like the sun. The Young Man
and the Whore flee.’ It was included in the Peter
WORKS INCLUDE:
Brook, CHARLES MAROWITZ Theatre of
Jet de Sang (1925, Jet of Blood), La Coquille et
Cruelty season at LAMDA in 1964, and
le Clergyman (1927, The Seashell and
student groups attempt it from time to time.
Clergyman, film script), Les Cenci (1935, The
Cenci), Le Théâtre et son Double (1938, The
TRY THESE:
Theatre and its Double; incorporating his
WEISS for a dramatist and La Mama for a group
First and Second Manifestos of the Theatre of
influenced by Artaud’s ideas; Claudel for impos-
Cruelty, 1931–5)
A Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:02 Page 12

12 AUDEN, W. H.
sible stage directions (The Satin Slipper, etc.); CHURCHILL, EDGAR, Henry Livings; TERRY
Expressionism for a non-illusionistic approach to JOHNSON’s underrated Cries from the Mammal
theatre. House for a disenchanted view of the contempo-
rary male using an animal metaphor; JARRY for a
similarly eclectic dramaturgy.
AUDEN, W. H.
(Wystan Hugh) [1907 – 72]
British poet, dramatist and critic AYCKBOURN, Alan [1939 – ]
British dramatist and director
PLAYS INCLUDE:
ISHERWOOD, Christopher
Mr Whatnot (1963), Relatively Speaking
(William Bradshaw) [1904 – 86]
(1967), How the Other Half Loves (1969),
British novelist, dramatist and screenwriter Time and Time Again (1971), Ernie’s
JOINT PLAYS INCLUDE: Incredible Illucinations (1971), Absurd Person
The Dog Beneath the Skin; or, Where is Singular (1972), The Norman Conquests
Francis? (1936), The Ascent of F6 (1937), On (1973, comprising Table Manners, Round and
the Frontier (1938) Round the Garden, Living Together), Absent
Friends (1974), Confusions (1974), Jeeves
Although both produced theatre work inde-
(1975, adapted from P. G. Wodehouse, with
pendently, their best-known plays are the
music by Andrew Lloyd Webber; revised as
jointly written verse dramas of the 1930s. I
By Jeeves, 1996), Bedroom Farce (1975), Just
Am a Camera and the musical Cabaret are
Between Ourselves (1976), Ten Times Table
based on Isherwood’s Berlin stories but are
(1977), Joking Apart (1978), Sisterly Feelings
not his dramatisations.
(1979), Taking Steps (1979), Suburban Strains
Left-wing intellectuals from elitist Oxbridge
(1980, with music by Paul Todd), Season’s
backgrounds, Auden and Isherwood were
Greetings (1980), Way Upstream (1981), It
politicised by the Depression, by the Spanish
Could Be Any of Us (1983), A Chorus of
Civil War and by living in Germany. All their
Disapproval (1984), Woman in Mind (1985),
joint work, and Auden’s Dance of Death
A Small Family Business (1987),
(1934), set out to attack capitalist power and
Henceforward . . . (1987), Man of the Moment
bourgeois values; Ascent of F6, with its protag-
(1988), The Revengers’ Comedies (1989),
onist clearly modelled on T. E. Lawrence,
Callisto 5 (1990), Body Language, (1990),
added elements of mysticism as well. Their
This is Where We Came In (1990), Invisible
style is not naturalistic and suggests strong
Friends (1991), Wildest Dreams (1991), Time
Brechtian influence. Despite the evident
of My Life (1992), Dreams from a Summer
homosexual content in some of both men’s
House (1992, with music by John Pattison),
other work, these verse dramas do not explore
Mr A’s Amazing Maze Plays (1993),
such themes. The Dog Beneath the Skin is a
Communicating Doors (1994), Haunting Julia
morality play in verse which makes use of a
(1994), The Champion of Paribanou (1996),
chorus, song and dance, masks, cabaret, and a
Things We Do for Love (1997), Comic
Master of Ceremonies to present the life of a
Potential (1998), The Boy Who Fell into a
man-sized dog as it passes from owner to
Book (1998), House and Garden (1999),
owner through a society peopled with carica-
Damsels in Distress (2001), Role Play (2001),
tures – a general, financier, churchman, etc.
Snake in the Grass (2002), The Jollies (2002)
Savagely satirical in its time, it may seem naive
when set against contemporary polemics. Ayckbourn is one of Britain’s most important
and commercially successful dramatists, a
TRY THESE: staple of the West End and regional repertory,
BRECHT , who compared these plays with who was critically undervalued for many
ARISTOPHANES ; for other modern verse drama, years because of his predilection for popular
Ronald Duncan, ELIOT , FRY ; for socialist plays forms and theatrical ingenuity. Because his
in the epic tradition, BOND, BRENTON, plays have their roots in more traditional
A Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:02 Page 13

AYCKBOURN, Alan 13

theatrical forms, rather than in a self-con- Increasingly, the comings and goings of
sciously avant-garde experimental theatre, married couples are injected with a note of
they were sometimes dismissed as no more black comedy, and the social groups are
than a ‘good night out’ by critics unable to see fraught with suggestions of the darker arenas
beyond the surface to the murky secrets of of human interchange. The social niceties of
domestic life beneath. the tea party in Absent Friends are disrupted
After starting his theatrical career as an by the inability of the participants to cope
actor and stage manager with Donald Wolfit’s with the idea of death, and in Just Between
company, he moved to Stephen Joseph’s Ourselves and Woman in Mind, what begins as
Studio Theatre Company in the early 1960s, the familiar comic theme of a sterile marriage
where he began directing and writing with transforms into tragedy as the wife descends
Joseph’s encouragement. Most of his plays into catatonia and breakdown. Michael
begin at Scarborough where, as artistic direc- Billington hailed Ayckbourn as the best con-
tor of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, he usually temporary feminist dramatist for Woman in
writes at least one new play annually for their Mind, but while this is clearly arguable
repertory season. Many of these have trans- Ayckbourn is one of the theatre’s sharpest
ferred to London, but he continues to base his observers of contemporary suburban values.
work in Scarborough. He has blossomed into a major writer of chil-
A superb theatrical craftsman, his plays are dren’s plays, experimented with science-
often constructed around a tour de force of fiction theatre, created music theatre with
staging. For example, The Norman Conquests is Paul Todd and John Pattison, encouraged new
a trilogy of plays, each of which stands on its writers and directed award-winning revivals.
own, and presents the same events from the True, his playing with the conventions of the
garden, sitting room and dining room; in thriller has been less successful than his
House and Garden Ayckbourn took this further reworking of the structures of comedy
with two plays involving the same cast playing (perhaps because the thriller itself has
simultaneously in two theatres; more than one become a less familiar theatrical form), but
household is on stage simultaneously in How his work constantly challenges audiences to
the Other Half Loves, Absurd Person Singular engage critically with the ways in which we
and Bedroom Farce (where the shifts in occu- structure our lives (and the ways in which our
pancy of three onstage bedrooms suggest farce, lives are structured for us), while never for-
but the absence of the bedroom of the couple getting the importance of engaging them in
whose relationship is on the verge of collapse the actual event of theatre.
manifests concretely the bleak absence at the
heart of the relationship); in A Small Family TRY THESE:
Business and Things We Do for Love (written, COONEY is the most celebrated contemporary
unusually for Ayckbourn, for proscenium-arch exponent of traditional farce, the conventions of
theatres) we are presented with cross-sections which Ayckbourn liberally exploits; FRAYN ’s
of houses; the riverboat in Way Upstream Noises Off is one of the funniest and cleverest
floated on real water (problematically at the examples of theatrical sleight-of-hand; DE
National Theatre, but not elsewhere); Sisterly FILIPPO , FEYDEAU , LABICHE and SIMON for
Feelings and Intimate Exchanges exist in contrasting approaches to farce and the family;
multiple versions determined by chance. STOPPARD as another juggler of theatrical con-
Ayckbourn’s assault on the traditional bound- ventions; Ayckbourn has adapted OSTROVSKY ’s
aries of theatrical space and time is part of a The Forest and SHERIDAN ’s A Trip to Scarborough,
sustained interrogation of the ways that itself based on VANBRUGH ’s The Relapse;
society constructs its realities, and his decon- TERRY JOHNSON adapted the television version
struction of traditional genres and theatrical of Way Upstream; Simon Burt’s Got to be Happy for
conventions matches his analytical deconstruc- the nuances of non-communication.
tion of the pieties of social organisation.
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 14

 
B 
BABE, Thomas [1941 – 2000] BAGNOLD, Enid
American dramatist (Lady Roderick Jones) [1884 – 1981]
PLAYS INCLUDE:
British novelist and dramatist
Kid Champion (1974), Mojo Candy (1975), PLAYS INCLUDE:
Rebel Women (1976), Billy Irish (1977), Great The Chalk Garden (1955)
Solo Town (1977), A Prayer for My Daughter
Bagnold was the author of National Velvet
(1977), Fathers and Sons (1978), Taken in
(filmed in 1944 with Elizabeth Taylor) and
Marriage (1979), Salt Lake City Skyline
numerous other successful novels. The Chalk
(1980), Kathleen (1980), Buried Inside Extra
Garden, the most successful of her original
(1983), Planet Fires (1984), Demon Wine
plays, was described by Kenneth Tynan as
(1987), A Hero of Our Time (1988), Great
probably ‘the finest artificial comedy to have
Day in the Morning (1993)
flowed from an English (as opposed to an
Buffalo-born and Harvard-educated, and one Irish) pen since the death of Congreve’. The
of America’s toughest, most independent Chalk Garden is an apparently typical ‘Hay-
dramatists, Babe has yet to achieve the recogni- market play’ of the 1950s, when the Theatre
tion he deserves. Associated with Joe Papp’s off- Royal was the showcase for star-studded (in
Broadway Public Theatre, where many of his this case Edith Evans and Peggy Ashcroft)
plays began, he is interested both in revisionist middle-class theatre with its heart in the right
treatments of history (Fathers and Sons and Salt place. However, as Lib Taylor has shown,
Lake City Skyline are about Wild Bill Hickok underneath the conventional narrative that
and union organiser Joe Hill, respectively) and reveals Miss Madrigal, the governess who
in closer-to-home, more domestic themes. In A brings life to the household and garden of the
Prayer for My Daughter, arguably his best- eccentric Mrs St Maugham, as a convicted
known work, a Sergeant Kelly ignores the suici- murderer, is a challenge to patriarchal assump-
dal telephone calls of his own daughter to con- tions about the family and the nature of
centrate on the young murder suspect, Jimmy, motherhood. It still surfaces from time to time.
whom he starts treating as a kind of aberrant
‘daughter’. Taken in Marriage, which brings a TRY THESE:
quintet of women together in a New Hamp- HUNTER , DODIE SMITH , HOME for plays of
shire church hall to attend a marriage rehearsal the period; HELLMAN ’s The Children’s Hour and
fraught with domestic volatility, and Buried IBSEN for plays of domestic revelation.
Inside Extra, a play about journalists which
inaugurated the Royal Court’s exchange with
the Public, are best seen as vehicles for actors, BAINS, Harwant [1963 – ]
who tend to rip into Babe’s roles with abandon. British dramatist
PLAYS INCLUDE:
TRY THESE:
The Fighting Kite (1987), Blood (1989)
KOPIT ’s Indians and much of LINNEY and
SHEPARD for iconoclastic views both of history Bains was hailed as a possible successor to
and of the American West; BRENTON and HANIF KUREISHI, much to his irritation (‘just
HARE ’s Pravda, HECHT and MACARTHUR ’s The because I’ve got a brown face and write plays’).
Front Page, Stephen Wakelam’s Deadlines for Southall-based, and the son of Indian parents,
alternative dramatic treatments of journalism. Bains takes up some of the same issues the
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 15

BANCIL, Parv 15

young Kureishi and, to some extent, KARIM history in 1987 as the first-ever all-black non-
ALRAWI explored in the early 1980s: racial vio- musical British production to open in the
lence and cultural identity. Bains’ first play, West End (where, sadly, it lost its £150,000
The Fighting Kite, a sprawling, episodic account investment). In Blues for Mr Charlie, Baldwin
of a racial attack in Southall, had its share of told an unforgettable tale of racial poison
stereotyped cut-outs of National Front skin- based on a true story – a white jury’s acquit-
heads, but handled the emotional response of tal, in 1955, of two white men who murdered
its young, second-generation British Asians to black Chicagoan Emmett Till in Mississippi.
their sense of alienation (neither ‘English’ nor In The Amen Corner, which was performed
accepted back on the Indian subcontinent) briefly at Howard University in 1955, and
with subtlety and sensitivity. His second play, opened on Broadway in 1965, Baldwin drew
Blood, a violent political thriller, received on his own background as the son of a
harsh treatment at the hands of some critics Harlem minister to depict the crumbling
who found the language and plot bordering domestic life and fading religiosity of Sister
on the crudely sensational. But others applau- Margaret Alexander, the censorious pastor of
ded the ambitious scope of the play, which a ‘storefront’ Harlem church. An avowed
tried to chart the legacy of India’s bloody homosexual, perhaps best known for his nov-
Partition of 1947 through the fate of two con- els, the expatriate Baldwin, who spent much
trasting young Punjabi Sikh brothers who set- of his later life in France, was a vociferous
tle in Britain. His later work for television champion of civil liberties and of both sexual
includes Two Oranges and a Mango and the and racial equality. Interestingly, however, in
series Grease Monkeys, about an Asian family an interview before his death, he played down
running a garage, based on his radio series of the importance of race in his plays, saying
the same name. with customary wryness: ‘The Amen Corner is
not about black people or white people. It’s
TRY THESE: about the people in the play.’
EDGAR’s Destiny for a bold attempt to pinpoint
the rise of post-World War II British fascism; Farrukh TRY THESE:
Dhondy’s Vigilantes explored the problems of BARAKA , BULLINS , HANSBERRY ’s A Raisin in
cultural identity within the first generation of the the Sun, AUGUST WILSON for detonating treat-
British Bangladeshi community; for Afro-Caribbean ments of racism; WOLFE ’s The Colored Museum
equivalents, PHILLIPS’ Strange Fruit, WHITE’s The takes satiric aim at Baldwin’s dramatic style;
Nine Night; for a female view of being young, black ABBENSETTS , BAINS , KUREISHI , MATURA for
and British, RUDET’s Money to Live; for a view of British parallels.
linkage between violence, history and de-
humanisation, FLANNERY’s Jewish equivalent in
Singer; BEHAN’s The Hostage and many plays on BANCIL, Parv
prison have made similar observations; for a con- British dramatist
trasting view, SHERMAN’s Bent.
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Made in England (1998), Crazy Horse (1998)
BALDWIN, James [1924 – 87] Bancil began writing with the Hounslow Arts
American dramatist Co-op in 1986. He has been particularly con-
cerned with the experience of second-genera-
PLAYS INCLUDE:
tion British Asians and how they negotiate
Blues for Mr Charlie (1964), The Amen
their identities in the country they were born
Corner (1965), A Deed from the King of Spain
into or brought up in but which still appears
(1974)
to regard them as ‘immigrants’. Made in
Baldwin’s theatrical reputation rests on his England tackles this theme through an exam-
two early plays, both of which struck a lasting ination of Asian underground music and its
chord on their New York debuts, and one of relationship to the record companies. Crazy
which (The Amen Corner) made London Horse examines father–son relationships.
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 16

16 BANDELE, Biyi
TRY THESE: (1970), Bloodrites (1970), A Recent Killing
BAINS , KUREISHI for earlier takes on British (1973), The New Ark’s a Moverin’ (1974),
Asian experience; EDGAR ’s Destiny for some of Sidnee Poet Heroical or If in Danger of Sun,
the forces that inform that experience historically; the Kid Poet Heroical (1975), S-I (1976), The
BUTTERWORTH ’s Mojo for record-company Motion of History (1977), What Was the
exploitation; GUPTA for a contemporary female Relationship of the Lone Ranger to the Means
British Asian voice. of Production? (1979), At the Dim’ Cracker
Party Convention (1980), Boy & Tarzan Meet
in a Clearing (1982), Money (1982), Primitive
BANDELE, Biyi [1967 – ] World (1984), The Life and Life of Bumpy
Nigerian-born dramatist Johnson (book for the musical, 1990), General
Hag’s Skeezag (1991), The Election Machine
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Warehouse (1996), Skin Trouble (1999)
Death Catches the Hunter (1993), Marching
for Fausa (1993), Two Horseman (1994),
Baraka’s plays seek to engage the black com-
Things Fall Apart (1997, from Chinua
munity by confronting it with an image of its
Achebe); Oroonoko (1999, from APHRA
own acquiescence or by elaborating myths of
BEHN ); Brixton Stories (2001)
a heroic past or a revolutionary future. In his
Bandele has what has been described as a manifesto, The Revolutionary Theatre, Baraka
‘magic realist’ approach to theatre that may proclaimed that theatre ‘should force change;
owe something to the rich variety of tradi- it should be change’. The Dutchman, The Slave
tions both European and African that he and The Toilet (set in a high-school toilet, a
draws on in his writing. Brixton Stories, which tapestry of festering bigotry brought to the
he has described as ‘an instinctive celebration boil) mark the beginning of the black revolu-
of Brixton’, uses only two actors to convey tionary theatre of the 1960s. Slave Ship traces
something of the teeming multiculturalism of the black experience from Africa to America.
the area. Bandele based the play on his own Using a series of vignettes, the play shows the
novel The Street, having already successfully murderous conditions of the Middle Passage,
adapted both Achebe for LIFT and Oroonoko, the brutalisation of blacks by both blacks and
APHRA BEHN ’s novel of slavery, for the RSC. whites, and attempts to organise black revolts.
Baraka has since moved away from an exclu-
TRY THESE: sively black nationalist position to embrace a
IKOLI for similar portraits of Peckham; form of Marxism and he remains an active
ABBENSETTS , ALRAWI , BAINS , KUREISHI, campaigner on political, social and cultural
MATURA for ethnic minority experiences in issues as well as performing in jazz/poetry
Britain; SOYINKA is the pre-eminent Nigerian events. Appointed as Poet Laureate of New
dramatist. Jersey, his response to the attack on the World
Trade Center in September 2001 ignited fierce
controversy over freedom of expression.
BARAKA, Amiri (Leroi Jones) [1934 – ]
American dramatist Dutchman
Dutchman is the best received of Baraka’s
PLAYS INCLUDE:
works. Clay, a well-dressed, black intellectual
A Good Girl is Hard to Find (1958), Dante
is accosted on a subway train by Lulu, a white
(1961), Dutchman (1964), The Baptism
bitch goddess. When her advances are politely
(1964), The Slave (1964), The Toilet (1964),
rebuffed, she verbally emasculates her victim
J-E-L-L-0 (1965), Experimental Death Unit
and ridicules his white middle-class dress and
No. 1 (1965), A Black Mass (1966), Slave
demeanour. Clay articulately counters her
Ship: A Historical Pageant (1967), Madheart
racial stereotyping. He describes the music of
(1967), Arm Yrself or Harm Yrself! (1967),
a Bessie Smith or a Charlie Parker as the
Great Goodness of Life (A Coon Show) (1967),
expressions of neurotics who suppress their
Home on the Range (1968), Resurrection in
rage ‘to keep from being sane’. In a sense Clay
Life (1969), Junkies Are Full of (SHH . . .)
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 17

BARKER, Howard 17

in his three-button suit proclaims his own issues, Barker has never received the degree of
spiritual death, a fact that does not escape critical acclaim given to some of his contem-
Lulu, who moves rapidly in for the kill with a poraries, probably because his interest in the
drawn switchblade. She quickly disposes of psychopathology of capitalism and patriarchy
Clay’s dead body before approaching another leads him to deal in much of his work with the
young black man boarding the train. grotesque and the distorted, often in highly
scatological language. At his best Barker is a
TRY THESE: brilliant and provocative writer; at his worst
LORCA and STRINDBERG (especially Miss Julie) he can be numbingly verbose. Some of his ear-
for often explosive theatrical rituals; PINERO ’s lier work, such The Loud Boy’s Life, Downchild
Short Eyes and RABE ’s Streamers as 1970s and A Passion in Six Days (a dramatic cantata
equivalents to The Toilet, in which constricted about a Labour Party conference), was con-
environments heighten racial tension; for cerned with specifically Labour party themes.
chronicles of racism and the black experience, His plays firmly eschew naturalism in
BULLINS , KENNEDY , SHANGE , WESLEY , favour of an incisive and theatrically inventive
SAMM-ART WILLIAMS , AUGUST WILSON ; cartoon-like style that juxtaposes private
WOLFE ’s The Colored Museum for the myths and desires with public postures and aims for psy-
stereotypes of the African-American experience; chological and socio-political truth rather than
for British parallels and contrasts, MATURA , the texture of everyday life. He shares with
PHILLIPS , RECKORD ; Gabriel Gbadamosi’s GAY and BRECHT a crucial perception of
No Blacks,No Irish shows racism and prejudice in the apparent identity of interest between crim-
1950s England. inal and politician and the inherent corrup-
tions of capitalism. The ‘criminal’ strand in his
work is well represented by, for example, Alpha
BARKER, Howard [1946 – ] Alpha (a study of two brothers patterned on
British dramatist the Kray twins), Claw (in which the hero acts
as procurer for the Home Secretary) and
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Stripwell, where a judge is faced with both the
Cheek (1970), No One Was Saved (1970),
criminal activities of his son and a man he sen-
Alpha Alpha (1972), Claw (1975), Stripwell
tenced returning for revenge.
(1975), That Good Between Us (1977), Fair
Barker is a history graduate and many of his
Slaughter (1977), The Hang of the Gaol
plays also pursue an interest in historical
(1978), The Love of a Good Man (1979), The
moments and their lessons for the present.
Loud Boy’s Life (1980), No End of Blame
Victory, subtitled punningly ‘Choices in
(1981), The Poor Man’s Friend (1981),
Reaction’, a fine example of this second strand,
Victory (1983), A Passion in Six Days (1983),
deals with the aftermath of the Restoration of
Crimes in Hot Countries (1983), The Power of
Charles II, mixing historical and stereotypical
the Dog (1984), Scenes from an Execution
characters in an extraordinary evocation of the
(radio, 1984; staged, 1989), The Castle
collapse of the ideals of the Commonwealth.
(1985), Downchild (1985), Women Beware
The play is notable for a brilliant explanation
Women (1986, reworking of MIDDLETON ’s
of the nature and contradictions of capitalism
play), Pity in History (1986), The Possibilities
involving Charles himself, a banker called
(1988), The Last Supper (1988), The Bite of
Hambro, Nell Gwyn, the skull of the parlia-
the Night (1988), Seven Lears (1988), Golgo
mentarian Bradshaw, and a large store of gold.
(1989), A Hard Heart (1992), The Europeans
(1993), Hated Nightfall (1994), Judith (1995),
The Castle
(Uncle) Vanya (1996), The Gaoler’s Ache for
The Castle is an extraordinary meditation on
the Nearly Dead (1996), Wounds to the Face
issues of gender, power, rational and emotional
(1997), Ursula (1998), A House Of Correction
knowledge, war and peace, in which a return-
(1998), He Stumbled (2000)
ing Crusader confronts the peaceful female
One of a generation of British dramatists community established by his wife in his
deeply concerned with political and social absence. The battle lines, both medieval and
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 18

18 BARNES, Peter
contemporary, are drawn between creativity dances, a comic theatre of contrasting moods
and destruction in confrontations and dia- and opposites, where everything is simultane-
logue that are brilliantly imagined and draw to ously tragic and ridiculous’. Barnes generally
the full on Barker’s ability to write with a confronts wider political issues, emulating the
poetic density of language, comic as well as broad scale, richness of character and theatri-
tragic, which uses everyday idiom as much as cality of BEN JONSON , though eschewing his
architectural imagery to create an extraordi- values. He has also ‘adapted’ a number of
narily flexible language. In Nick Hamm’s orig- Jacobean plays, including Jonson’s The
inal RSC production there were superb per- Alchemist, The Silent Woman, Bartholomew
formances from Penny Downie as the fecund Fair, Eastward Ho and The Devil is an Ass (in
matriarch, Harriet Walter as her lesbian lover, which nearly half of the material is new) and
Ian McDiarmid as the returning Crusader and MARSTON ’s Antonio plays. Other adapta-
Paul Freeman as his castle-building architect. tions include  FEYDEAU farces. Laughter
opens with a custard pie slammed in the face
TRY THESE: of an author, and the vitality of music-hall
BRENTON shares many of Barker’s preoccupa- humour jostles, sometimes uncomfortably,
tions and much of his approach to writing for the with the harsh cruelties which Barnes uses to
theatre; EDGAR has also tackled similar issues, make emotive attacks on the use of power by
particularly in Destiny (fascism and Labour reac- the State, the Church and big business. For
tions to it) and Maydays (opposition to totalitarian example, Leonardo’s Last Supper is an imagi-
impulses); FLANNERY looked at corruption and native debate about the value of art, set in a
the Labour party in Our Friends in the North; charnel house where da Vinci’s corpse revives.
IBSEN ’s The Master Builder also uses architecture A passionate attack on Toryism, class and
metaphorically; BARNES uses an inventive privilege, The Ruling Class presents a rampag-
rhetorical style reminiscent of Barker, particularly ing madman who inherits an earldom and
in Leonardo’s Last Supper; WERTENBAKER ’s The believes he is God. It shows his return to
Grace of Mary Traverse explores capitalism and the ‘sanity’, confirmed when he makes a pro-
present through the past; BEHN , CHURCHILL , hanging and pro-flogging speech to his
GEMS and LEVY have all explored the cobwebbed fellow peers in the House of
relationships of gender and power to capitalism; Lords. On its first production Ronald Bryden
DE ANGELIS ’s Playhouse Creatures for hailed The Ruling Class as ‘a pivotal play’, and
Restoration actresses. Harold Hobson placed it on a level with
Waiting for Godot, Look Back in Anger and The
Birthday Party, but Barnes’ later work has
BARNES, Peter [1931 – ] been less rapturously received. His character-
British dramatist istic mixture of ironic juxtaposition, metathe-
atrical comment, popular forms and political
PLAYS INCLUDE:
themes, death and humour has always
Time of the Barracudas (1963), Sclerosis
required a management prepared to take a
(1965), The Ruling Class (1968), Leonardo’s
risk, and the RSC’s seven-year delay in pro-
Last Supper (1969), Noonday Demons (1969),
ducing Red Noses is evidence of how uncom-
Lulu (1970, from WEDEKIND ), The
fortable some can feel about his work. Red
Bewitched (1974), Frontiers of Farce (1976,
Noses was his first play in London for seven-
adapted from FEYDEAU and WEDEKIND ),
teen years. Set in France at the time of the
Laughter (1978, from FEYDEAU ), Red Noses
Black Death, it is populated by roaming bands
(1985), Scenes from a Marriage (1986, from
of guilt-ridden flagellants, red-nosed comics
FEYDEAU ), Sunsets and Glories (1990),
who confront disease with laughter and are
Corpsing (1996), Dreaming (1999)
tolerated by the Church because they keep the
Much of Barnes’ theatre work achieves the people cheerful. When the plague abates and
aim he stated in a published text of The Ruling their performances begin to become subver-
Class, ‘to create by means of soliloquy, rheto- sive they are ruthlessly squashed. Barnes is not
ric, formalised ritual, slapstick, song and a polemicist and, though the bold and epic
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 19

BARRY, Philip 19

scale of the play gives marvellous opportunities has been the only one of Barrie’s many plays
to performers, its characters’ hope that ‘every to be revived regularly. His one-act plays, such
jest should be a small revolution’ is not as Ibsen’s Ghost, The Twelve Pound Look, and
answered. the tantalising first act of the thriller Shall We
Most of Barnes’ recent work has been for Join the Ladies?, are often more effective than
radio and television and it took a further the full-length ones and well worth reviving.
fourteen years before he had another London
production. Critics liked the Manchester pro- Peter Pan
duction of Dreaming (1999), another histori- The plot centres on Peter Pan (the Boy Who
cal play that demonstrated that Barnes still Never Grew Up), who flies off to the Never
had the same capacity for effectively ironic Never Land with the Darling children
juxtaposition that characterised his earlier (Wendy, John and Michael), leaving their
successes, but it fared less well in London. father to take refuge in the dog kennel. After
defeating the Pirates, they return to Blooms-
TRY THESE: bury with the Lost Boys, leaving Peter to for-
BOND (especially We Come to the River); get all that has happened and wait for the next
BERKOFF for outrage; BENNETT for satire; generation of Darlings. Usually revived as a
BRENTON and HARE ’s Pravda, NICHOLS ’ The Christmas entertainment, the play is a
National Health, and Privates on Parade for con- Freudian’s delight and must have bewildered a
temporary satires on an epic scale; DEAR , great many children over the years. Captain
KOPIT , WOLFE for historical debunking; Hook, however, remains one of the great
BOLT ’s A Man for All Seasons and WHITING ’s bravura parts.
The Devils for more straightforward treatments of
history. TRY THESE:
SHAW for class issues in The Admirable Crichton;
CORRIE offers a rather different Scottish sensi-
BARRIE, (Sir) James bility; the use of a ghostly spirit in Mary Rose has
Matthew [1860 – 1937] parallels, from ELIOT in The Family Reunion to
British dramatist and novelist PAGE ’s Salonika, though none treat it with the
almost touching feyness of Barrie.
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Ibsen’s Ghost (1891), Walker, London (1892),
The Professor’s Love Story (1894), The Little
BARRY, Philip [1896 – 1949]
Minister (1897), Quality Street (1902), The
Admirable Crichton (1902), Peter Pan (1904),
American dramatist
What Every Woman Knows (1908), The PLAYS INCLUDE:
Twelve Pound Look (1910), Dear Brutus A Punch for Judy (1921), You and I (1923),
(1917), The Truth About the Russian Dancers The Youngest (1924), In a Garden (1925),
(1920), Mary Rose (1920), Shall We Join the White Wings (1925), John (1927), Paris
Ladies? (1922), The Boy David (1936) Bound (1927), Cock Robin (1928, with
ELMER RICE ), Holiday (1928), Hotel Universe
Barrie, born of a poor Scottish family, went
(1930), Tomorrow and Tomorrow (1931), The
South after leaving Edinburgh University. He
Animal Kingdom (1932), The Joyous Season
started his career as a journalist, then struck
(1934), Bright Star (1935), Spring Dance
gold with the novel of The Little Minister in
(1936), Here Come the Clowns (1938), The
1891 and wrote prolifically and very success-
Philadelphia Story (1939), Liberty Jones
fully through the Edwardian era and beyond.
(1941), Without Love (1942), Foolish Notion
Although What Every Woman Knows, Mary
(1945), My Name is Aquilon (1949), Second
Rose, with its odd mixture of innocence, fan-
Threshold (completed posthumously by
tasy and slightly sinister unquiet spirit, and
Robert Sherwood, 1951)
the equally whimsical toing and froing of the
classes in The Admirable Crichton surface Educated at Yale and Harvard, Barry wrote
from time to time, in recent years Peter Pan American comedy of manners about the
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 20

20 BARRY, Sebastian
sophisticated set of which he was a part, but failure of aspiration underpin Prayers of
not without healthy criticism of upper-class Sherkin and The Only True History of Lizzie
complacency and snobbery. His two best- Finn, which is based on the life of Barry’s
known plays make his bemused contempt grandmother. In Our Lady of Sligo a woman
clear, even as they introduce the so-called in hospital relives her painful family relation-
‘Barry girl’, a clear-headed, no-nonsense rich ships and her dashed hopes. The intersection
kid who is more on the ball than her posh sur- between family and history emerges most
roundings might suggest. In Holiday, the self- clearly in The Steward of Christendom, where
made Johnny Case becomes engaged to the Barry explores the ramifications of the career
heiress Julia Seton only to find he has more in of his great-grandfather, Thomas Dunne, who
common with her younger sister Linda, who served in the Dublin police and handed over
shares his desire for a ‘holiday’ from rampant Dublin Castle to Michael Collins when home
materialistic pursuits. In The Philadelphia rule was achieved. As a catholic policeman he
Story, later made into the stage and screen occupied an ambiguous position in the com-
musical High Society, the moneyed divorcée plex interplay of forces in the struggle for
Tracy Lord forsakes the dour stiff she’s sup- independence. Like much of Barry’s work the
posed to marry for a man defined more by his play explores events from the perspective of a
personality than his social position. Not all more recent time. The play is set in the 1930s
Barry’s plays treat the mores of the well- when Dunne, who is in his seventies and is
heeled: John is a Biblical tragedy, Cock Robin, mad, looks back both on the struggles of his
written with ELMER RICE , a comic mystery; career and the difficulties of bringing up his
and Liberty Jones, an allegory. But he remains daughters alone in Dublin. The contrasts
best known for his social satire on the swells between his private and official selves are
among whom he moved so easily. reinforced by the sense of the differences
between rural and urban Ireland, and another
TRY THESE: level of complexity is added by the fact that
AYCKBOURN and COWARD for British equiva- we are looking back on the 1930s while the
lents to Barry’s deceptive dark domestic frivolity, protagonist looks back to the early 1900s. The
specifically Private Lives, a play about divorcés get- cool reception of Hinterland in London ended
ting back together; KAUFMAN for comparable Barry’s run of successes, although the resem-
sophistication; GURNEY , HOWE , DENNIS blances between its protagonist and the for-
MCINTYRE , GREENBERG , SIMON for modern mer Taoiseach Charles Haughey had guaran-
chroniclers of American class. teed it more success in Ireland.

TRY THESE:
BARRY, Sebastian [1955 – ] O’CASEY for the struggle for Irish independ-
Irish novelist, poet and dramatist ence; SYNGE for communities under threat and
Irish rural life; BOLGER , FRIEL , MURPHY for
PLAYS INCLUDE:
similar issues; HUTCHINSON for contemporary
The Pentagonal Dreamer (1986), Boss Grady’s
Irish police issues; DECLAN HUGHES for contem-
Boys (1988), Prayers of Sherkin (1990), White
porary Irish themes; GARY MITCHELL for Ulster.
Woman Street (1992), The Only True History
of Lizzie Finn (1995), The Steward of
Christendom (1995), Our Lady of Sligo (1998),
BARTLETT, Neil [1959 – ]
Hinterland (2002)
British performer, director and dramatist
The vast majority of Barry’s plays draw on
PLAYS INCLUDE:
aspects of his family history to create com-
Antibody (1983), Dressing Up (1983),
pelling narratives of the intersections between
Pornography (1985), A Vision of Love
the personal and the political. Traditional
Revealed in Sleep (1986), Sarrasine (1990),
Irish themes such as emigration fuel Boss
Night After Night (1994, with Nicholas
Grady’s Boys and White Woman Street; threats
Bloomfield), The Seven Sacraments of Nicolas
to communities, economic troubles and the
Poussin (1997)
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 21

BEATON, Alistair 21

A determinedly anti-establishment figure, life, Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall, have
despite his first in English from Magdalen both been warmly received.
College, Oxford, and a director’s traineeship
at the Bristol Old Vic, Bartlett set up his own A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep
company, Gloria, in 1987. Antibody was one Sleep was originally performed by Bartlett,
of the first plays to deal with AIDS in Britain, onstage throughout and naked, as a solo show
but Dressing Up began his highly flamboyant in a disused warehouse. This studied and lux-
explorations into drag, followed, by A Vision urious tribute to an all but forgotten Jewish
of Love Revealed in Sleep and Sarrasine – two Victorian painter and poet, Simeon Solomon,
of the most extraordinary theatrical spect- a friend of Rossetti, Swinburne and Pater,
acles to have burst on the British public since who was disgraced and reduced to poverty
Lindsay Kemp first came to prominence. As after being caught in a public toilet with a
Carl Miller has written: ‘Bartlett drags high labourer, was actually taken from Solomon’s
and low culture into creative collusion’, an own erotic prose poem. Reflecting the
entirely suitable pun on a process that has imagery of the poem through Bartlett’s own
relocated drag from the small gay cognoscenti nakedness, and merging his own circum-
fraternity into a broader dramatic arena. Both stances with those of Solomon, it became a
spectacles featured performer Bette Bourne witty and moving ‘hymn’ to art, homosexual
in ways which fused high art with low camp, love and defiance. Solomon’s own refusal to
and made points about the importance of the apologise was apparently one of the reasons
living presence of the performer, the nature Bartlett was attracted to his subject. In later
of artifice and reality and the politics of gay incarnations Bartlett was joined by three drag
persecution. queens – heightening the production’s won-
Jim Hiley described Bartlett as ‘the most derful mix of ‘high art’ with ‘low culture’. The
tumultuous, the least categorisable talent to sight and sound of Bette Bourne singing Cole
emerge in the 80s’. His multiple careers as Porter’s ‘In the Still of the Night’ remains an
director, translator, adapter, dramatist and indelible memory and comment on the emo-
novelist are ample testimony to the accuracy tional repercussions of AIDS.
of that judgement. He became artistic director
of the Lyric, Hammersmith, in 1994, where he TRY THESE:
has pursued an innovative policy with a strong Lindsay Kemp for theatre of divine outrage;
European element. As a director, he was GENET , TREMBLAY for mixing the sacred and
responsible for Complicité’s More Bigger profane; Robert Lepage and Peter Brook for
Snacks Now, and Annie Griffin’s equally director-auteurs who also favour an ongoing
mould-breaking solo shows Blackbeard the work-in-progress approach; NOËL GREIG and
Pirate and Almost Persuaded, her country-and- OSMENT for contrasting gay sensibility.
western music satire. He adapted WILDE’s
The Portrait of Dorian Gray (1994) and has
translated GENET (Splendids), KLEIST (The BEATON, Alistair
Prince of Homburg, 2002) LABICHE (The British writer
Threesome, 2000), MARIVAUX (The Dispute,
PLAYS INCLUDE:
The Island of Slaves and The Game of Love and
Feelgood (2001)
Chance), MOLIÈRE (The Misanthrope and
School for Wives), and RACINE (Bérénice), Beaton’s television credits include contribu-
Bartlett’s visual theatre uses text, image tions to such series as Spitting Image and Not
and music in contrapuntal abundance – the Nine O’Clock News so it was no surprise
satirising itself even at its most outrageous, that his play about the trials and tribulations
and delighting in the contradiction. He is, of a prime minister at his party conference
nonetheless, equally at home in the quieter was welcomed as the return of theatrical
waters (structurally speaking) of the novel; political satire. Updated during its run to
his homage to Oscar Wilde, Who Was That maintain its topicality, it seems likely to have
Man?, and his contemporary account of gay been an interesting one-off, and it was note-
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 22

22 BEAUMARCHAIS, Pierre Augustin Caron de


worthy that its attacks on Tony Blair, while by the gardener’s daughter. There was going to
particularly welcomed by right-wing news- be a fourth episode of this increasingly
papers, appear to have done nothing to dent depressing story, but Beaumarchais died first.
his General Election majority. The Marriage of Figaro was revived at the
Manchester Royal Exchange in 2002.
TRY THESE:
BRENTON for a long-standing commitment to TRY THESE:
political satire: GAY for eighteenth-century satire; MARIVAUX for eighteenth-century French
BARKER, GRANVILLE-BARKER’s Waste and HARE comedy (though their language and approach
for party politics; ELDRIDGE’s A Week with Tony for are very different, Marivaux being a natural
contemporary Conservative politics; David miniaturist and Beaumarchais a poster artist);
Lindsay’s late medieval Satire of the Three Estates FEYDEAU for plot complications; HORVÁTH for
for an early Scottish satire; Justin Butcher’s The updating and development in Figaro Gets a
Madness of George Dubya for Gulf War II satire. Divorce.

BEAUMARCHAIS, Pierre Augustin BEAUMONT, Francis [1584/5 – 1616]


Caron de [1732 – 99] English Renaissance dramatist, collaborator with
French dramatist JOHN FLETCHER
PLAYS INCLUDE: PLAYS INCLUDE:
Eugénie (1767), Les Deux Amis (1770, The The Knight of the Burning Pestle (1607),
Two Friends), Le Barbier de Séville (1775, The Philaster (pre-1610, with FLETCHER ), The
Barber of Seville), Le Mariage de Figaro Maid’s Tragedy (pre-1611, with FLETCHER )
(1784, The Marriage of Figaro), Tarare
Although Beaumont is traditionally associated
(1787), La Mère Coupable (1792, The Guilty
with Fletcher, his place in the contemporary
Mother)
repertory rests largely on his own The Knight
As well as being a dramatist, Beaumarchais was of the Burning Pestle. A lively blend of satire at
a watchmaker, musician, financier, courtier, the expense of middlebrow taste, this uses
pamphleteer, gunrunner and secret agent, in all plays within plays, popular songs, apparent
of which he achieved some distinction but no interruptions from the audience, romance
lasting success. He wrote two very good plays and melodrama in a heady mixture that has
(The Barber of Seville and its sequel The maintained its appeal because the tastes and
Marriage of Figaro) which might be more often attitudes it confronts are easily recognisable
performed in English had they not also been today. Michael Bogdanov staged the last
the bases of two superlative operas. The first major British revival, for the RSC in 1981.
has a plot that can be described in a few lines – There was something of a Beaumont and
old guardian, young ward, young nobleman in FLETCHER revival at that time with success-
disguise, clever servant to help him; the second ful productions of The Maid’s Tragedy, a love,
would need several pages to describe, and com- honour and duty tragedy, by both the
bines non-stop comic invention with sharp Glasgow Citizens’ and the RSC, but there has
social satire. The Marriage of Figaro is possibly been little recent interest in Beaumont.
unique in being a successful sequel. There is a
third in the series, The Guilty Mother, which TRY THESE:
has a strange combination of elevated moral DEKKER ’s Shoemaker’s Holiday, HEYWOOD ’s
tone and prurient plot: the Almavivas have Fair Maid of the West and Four Prentices of London
come to live in France because of the (the prime object of Beaumont’s parody) are
Revolution, and like to be known as Citoyen more complimentary to citizen taste than
and Citoyenne. The hero finds that he is the MIDDLETON ’s A Chaste Maid, which shares more
illegitimate son of the Countess and Chérubin, of Beaumont’s standpoint; JONSON ’s
the latter having been killed in the wars, and so Bartholomew Fair and SHAKESPEARE ’s The Merry
he can marry the Count’s illegitimate daughter Wives of Windsor also offer portraits of the middle
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 23

BECKETT, Samuel 23

classes from this period; there are many plays if it was to entertain and stimulate them.
about theatre companies and interrupted per- Martin Esslin claimed Beckett as the figure
formances, including SHERIDAN ’s The Critic, who brought Absurdism to public attention,
PIRANDELLO ’s Six Characters in Search of an but Beckett himself did not accept that charac-
Author and STOPPARD ’s The Real Inspector terisation, nor can his considerable output
Hound. and the range of his experiments in drama be
neatly categorised. Beckett himself consistently
refused to explain his work, continuing to
BECKETT, Samuel [1906 – 89] direct and to produce drama that defies easy
Irish/French dramatist and novelist definition. Existentialism, Christian allegory
and nihilism have all been employed as theo-
PLAYS INCLUDE:
retical accounts of Beckett’s work, but he has
En Attendant Godot (1953, as Waiting for
said only ‘I meant what I said’. To reduce the
Godot, 1955), Endgame (1957), All That Fall
stark and complex imagery and language of
(1957), Act Without Words I (1957), Krapp’s
Beckett’s oeuvre to a single ‘meaning’ would
Last Tape (1958), Embers (1959), Act Without
be to diminish its power.
Words II (1959), Happy Days (1961), Words
Beckett’s work is full of powerful images
and Music (1962), Cascando (1963), Play
which are not referred to or explained, often
(1963), Eh Joe (1966), Come and Go (1966),
images of human immobility: in Play, the
Breath (1969), Not I (1972), That Time
three voices are trapped in jars; Winnie of
(1976), Footfalls (1976), Ghost Trio (1976),
Happy Days is gradually buried up to her neck
. . . But the Clouds . . . (1977), A Piece of
in sand; in Endgame, one of the characters
Monologue (1980), Rockaby (1980), Ohio
cannot walk, another cannot sit. These images
Impromptu (1981), Quad (1982), Catastrophe
can be seen as metaphors for inescapable
(1982), Nacht und Träume (1983), What
traps; in Beckett’s plays, as in SARTRE ’s Huis
Where (1983)
Clos, there is literally no way out.
Born in Ireland of Anglo-Irish parents, Beckett’s plays became increasingly mini-
Beckett went to Paris in the late 1920s where malist in their exploration of the limits of the
he worked for a while with James Joyce and dramatic form. In Acts Without Words he pro-
later as a lecturer in English. In 1938 he settled duced the works with no verbal language,
in Paris, where he lived until his death, writ- only sounds, and in a television piece in
ing in both French and English and translat- which actors silently moved around a floor
ing his own work into English. He was active diagram, he raised the question of what a
in the French Resistance during World War II, ‘play’ is; at what point does drama cease to be
and was awarded the Nobel Prize for drama and become dance or mime? He also
Literature in 1969. wrote a number of monologues, most memo-
Beckett began writing as a critic; his first rably for women: Not I, Rockaby and Footfalls.
published work was a piece on Finnegan’s Not I is a stunning visual theatrical effect, per-
Wake, written at Joyce’s request. In 1931 he formed on a darkened stage on which only a
produced a study of Proust; he then wrote shadowy draped figure and a spotlit mouth
verse, short fiction and novels and turned to are visible. The draped figure moves slightly
drama, he said, for ‘relaxation’. Waiting for during the course of the play, while the mouth
Godot arrived in England at a period in which babbles a fragmented and pain-filled dis-
there was a growing interest and awareness of course. Billie Whitelaw has described the
non-realist forms of drama and of the inno- experience as ‘falling backwards into Hell,
vations of European theatre. A play in which emitting cries’. When Whitelaw was con-
two tramp-clown figures wait for Godot, who fronted with the script she told Beckett:
never arrives, it was greeted with both mysti- ‘You’ve finally done it, you’ve written the
fication and acclaim. It is, famously, a play in unlearnable and you’ve written the
which nothing happens, twice, and its mini- unplayable’. When she asked Beckett if the
malism encouraged both audiences and other character was dead he responded ‘Let’s just
writers to reassess what drama actually needed say you’re not quite there’.
Page 24
16:04
2/4/07
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp

BECKETT, Samuel
24 Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, directed by Peter Hall, Old Vic Theatre, 1997. Ben Kingsley as Estragon, Greg Hicks as Lucky, Alan Howard as
Vladimir and Denis Quilley as Pozzo. (Billie Rafaeli/ArenaPAL)
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 25

BEHAN, Brendan 25

The setting, timing and direction of a TRY THESE:


Beckett play are as integral as the text; his stage IONESCO and GENET were seen with Beckett
directions are extremely precise. In Footfalls to represent a European ‘Theatre of the Absurd’;
the character is described as ‘compulsively STOPPARD ’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are
pacing’, but the footfalls are not arbitrary, they Dead clearly owes a great deal to Waiting for
are minutely scripted: ‘starting with right foot Godot; KANE and PINTER have obviously been
(r) from right (R) to left (L) . . . ’. Beckett places influenced by Beckett; for a contrasting
enormous demands upon the performer, but master–servant relationship, see WALCOTT ’s
Whitelaw says: ‘I think if that is what he’s Pantomime.
written, that is what he wants. And I think it’s
up to anyone who’s actually doing his work to
follow that as faithfully as they can’. BEHAN, Brendan [1923 – 64]
Despite the difficulty of much of Beckett’s Irish dramatist, journalist, house painter and
work, he is not as obscure as is often thought; alcoholic
his plays are full of comic invention and pun-
PLAYS INCLUDE:
ning. He had a fascination with clowning (his
The Quare Fellow (1954), An Gaill (1958,
one film, Film, 1965, was made with Buster
reworked as The Hostage), Richard’s Cork Leg
Keaton): Waiting for Godot employs comic
(completed posthumously by Alan Simpson,
routines that are worthy of Laurel and Hardy.
1972)
Endgame A member of the IRA at fourteen, sent to
The four characters of Endgame exist in a bare Borstal for three years, sentenced at nineteen
set, with only two small windows. Two of to fourteen years in jail for political offences
them are locked in a symbiotic relationship: and attempted murder, Behan drew on his
Clov cannot sit, Hamm, blind and impotent, own life for his autobiographical books
cannot stand. They hate, but need, each Borstal Boy (1958) and Confessions of an Irish
other, in a pairing that echoes the master – Rebel (1965) and early radio plays which Alan
servant relationship of Pozzo and Lucky in Simpson adapted for the Pike Theatre Club,
Waiting for Godot. The senile Nell and Nagg Dublin. His first stage play, The Quare Fellow,
are encased in dustbins, their concerns only set in a prison on the eve of an execution, was
the immediately physical. In a bitter image of ‘developed’ by JOAN LITTLEWOOD for a new
a marriage, unable to reach one another version presented by Theatre Workshop (1956)
except to scratch, Nagg wistfully reminisces and in the West End, and had an important
about the erotic (a theme also explored in effect on attitudes to imprisonment and capi-
Krapp’s Last Tape). The claustrophobic world tal punishment. An Gaill, commissioned by
of the play is never specified, the world out- the Irish language society Gael Linn, and
side the room only available through the tele- reworked by Theatre Workshop as The
scope through which Clov sees a barren land- Hostage, presents a picaresque set of charac-
scape. Written in a period when nuclear war ters in a brothel used as an IRA safe house
seemed a very real threat, one possibility is where a British soldier is held prisoner. Much
that this is a post-holocaust world. The only of its success was due to the Workshop’s style
clue Beckett offered is his reply to an actor of songs, repartee and audience confronta-
that ‘the play doesn’t happen only in one per- tion. Richard’s Cork Leg, a political comedy
son’s mind’. The play is full of theatrical refer- about fascism, was left unfinished and com-
ences: Clov and Hamm evoke Caliban and pleted by Alan Simpson in 1972.
Prospero in SHAKESPEARE ’s Tempest; Hamm Behan’s own curtain speeches, colourful
(who often sounds Shakespearean) is a refer- behaviour and alcoholic interviews attracted
ence to ‘ham’ acting (and to Hamlet?); at one as much media attention as his plays.
point Clov turns his telescope directly onto Although Behan claimed ‘I’m not a post-
the audience and reports: ‘I see a multitude in man . . . I don’t deliver messages’, both plays
transports of joy.’ have a great deal to say to their audiences and
the Theatre Workshop productions affected
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 26

26 BEHN, Aphra
attitudes both to the topics discussed and to Playhouse Trust (1981) and The Rover by the
ways of presenting theatre. RSC (1986) and the Goodman Theatre in
Chicago (1988–9). Modern audiences enjoy
TRY THESE: her plays particularly for their good humour
For plays on Irish politics, FINNEGAN , FRIEL , and energy, whilst recognising her early femi-
MCGUINNESS , O’CASEY ; GENET ’s The Balcony nist claims for equality in relationships
and SHAKESPEARE ’s Pericles for rather different between the sexes. A night with Behn is still a
uses of brothel settings; for plays on prison good night out and her plays have as much to
brutality, Jack Henry Abbott’s In the Belly of the offer as those of her better-known male con-
Beast, John Herbert’s Fortune and Men’s Eyes and temporaries. Her novel Oronooko was adapted
PINERO ’s Short Eyes. for the RSC in 1999 by BIYI BANDELE , there
was a fringe production of The Feigned
Courtesans (Old Red Lion) in 2002 and the
BEHN, Aphra [1640 – 89] Wales Actors’ Company are staging The Rover
English dramatist and novelist in 2003.
PLAYS INCLUDE:
TRY THESE:
The Forced Marriage (1670), The Rover
Other Restoration dramatists such as
(1677), The Feigned Courtesans; or A Night’s
CONGREVE , DRYDEN , ETHEREGE ,
Intrigue (1678), The Roundheads; or The
FARQUHAR , WYCHERLEY , VANBURGH ;
Good Old Cause (1681), The City-Heiress; or
BOND ’s Restoration and CHURCHILL ’s Serious
Sir Timothy Treat-All (1682), The Lucky
Chance (1686), The Emperor of the Moon
Money for modern similarities; WERTENBAKER ’s
(1687)
The Grace of Mary Traverse for a similar concern for
women in their social context, using a historical
The first woman to earn her living by the pen, setting; DE ANGELIS for women in Restoration
Behn was renowned both for her wit and for theatre.
her prolific output. In her lifetime she was
one of the most frequently performed drama-
tists, and actually left behind eighteen plays, BENNETT, Alan [1934 – ]
as well as novels and poetry. An early champ- British dramatist and actor
ion of a woman’s right to free expression –
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Virginia Woolf suggested that ‘all women
Forty Years On (1968), Getting On (1971),
together ought to let flowers fall upon the
Habeas Corpus (1973), The Old Country
tomb of Aphra Behn . . . for it was she who
(1977), Enjoy (1980), Kafka’s Dick (1986),
earned them the right to speak their minds’ –
Single Spies (1988, An Englishman Abroad,
she was consistently vilified by male critics for
televised 1983, and A Question of
daring to write as bawdily as they did. After
Attribution), The Madness of George III
the opening of The Lucky Chance an accusa-
(1991), Talking Heads (1992), The Wind in
tion of indecency brought from her a typically
the Willows (1996), The Lady in the Van
robust plea to be accorded the same freedom
(1999)
to write that men enjoyed. Her plays deal with
subjects familiar to Restoration audiences fat- Bennett first attracted attention as a writer
tened on a diet of elegant debauchery, double and performer in revue on the Edinburgh
standards in high places, sexual intrigue and Fringe, especially with Beyond the Fringe with
cuckoldry. She wrote tragicomedies, historical Jonathan Miller, Dudley Moore and Peter
comedies, political lampoons and, with the Cook, which had long runs in London and
commedia dell’arte-based The Emperor of the New York. Bennett is a very funny writer,
Moon, is credited with a forerunner to the adept at using the techniques of farce and
English pantomime. music hall, but, while he will find humour in
After two-and-a-half centuries of neglect, the predicament of cancer patients, geriatrics,
Behn is enjoying a small renaissance: The Jewish mothers, social workers’ cases or
Lucky Chance was revived by the Women’s homosexual spies, his characters are not butts
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 27

BENT, SIMON 27

for laughter. He has a telling ear for the Madness of King George (1994), retitled so the
nuances of everyday speech and an eye for the American audience would not think it was the
clinching detail but he explores a wide variety third film in a series.
of dramatic forms from monologue to biog-
raphy to history play so that there is no typi- TRY THESE:
cal Bennett format. Denise Deegan’s Daisy Pulls It Off and John
Forty Years On seemed to please everyone, Dighton’s The Happiest Days of Our Lives for satire
‘a good night out’ and a clever satire with on the English public school system; SIMON
songs which analyses Britain in the twentieth GRAY ’s Butley, HAMPTON ’s The Philanthropist,
century via a revue put on by a boarding NICHOLS and ORTON for satire of social
school (much of it began life as pastiches of mores; WILCOX ’s Lent for linking the school play
literary and other styles). The Old Country, a with homosexuality; JULIAN MITCHELL ’s Another
cerebral discussion of national identity Country for homosexuality and spies; STAFFORD
through the image of a British defector living for dynastic politics.
in the USSR, made more demands on audi-
ences. Enjoy manages to be illuminating about
class values, town planners, the generation BENT, Simon
gap, sexual politics and fashionable sociology British dramatist
in a play that continually surprises. An ageing
PLAYS INCLUDE:
working-class couple in the north of England,
Bad Company (1991), Wasted (1993)
living in a house due for demolition, and due
Goldhawk Road (1996), Shelter (1997) Sugar
for removal to a new estate, are visited by an
Sugar (1998), A Prayer for Owen Meaney
apparently female social worker who, the
(2002, from John Irving), The Associate
audience does not realise, is actually their son
(2002), Accomplices (2002)
in drag. Proud of their children, they try to
play it his way, and they also boast of their Bent has carved himself out a comic niche
prostitute daughter: ‘She’s exceptional. You that marks him as the inheritor of the mantle
won’t find girls like her on every street corner.’ of JOE ORTON and HAROLD PINTER . His
Kafka’s Dick, in which Kafka, his parents and characteristic approach is to bring together an
his publisher materialise in the suburban unlikely group of characters in a microcosmic
home of a would-be biographer, found appre- environment and then explore the ensuing
ciative audiences at the Royal Court, but the tensions. In Bad Company it’s the end of the
first production failed to transfer to the West season at a seaside resort and some bored
End. It fared better in a 1998 revival at a time young adults find things to keep themselves
when public opinion had become more con- occupied including, inevitably, sex and vio-
cerned about the negative aspects of lence. In Wasted a similar group try to run a
‘celebrity’. Bennett’s exploration of the king’s communal house with all the usual difficul-
madness and its implications in The Madness ties. Goldhawk Road owes something to
of George III is a typical example of his ability JONSON ’s Volpone with its tale of potential
to combine comic and tragic impulses in a beneficiaries jockeying for position at a death-
single structure. bed. Sugar Sugar is set in a seaside guesthouse
His television monologue series, Talking where the arrival of a new guest awakens dan-
Heads, and Single Spies (a double bill about gerous forces. In The Associate two workmen
two English spies, Guy Burgess and Anthony about to redecorate a pensioner’s council flat
Blunt, which includes an appearance by share a roast breakfast with him as he regales
Elizabeth II), both transferred successfully to them with Pinteresque tales of how the world
the stage, and The Old Crowd (1979) and The has maltreated him. Although Bent has
Insurance Man (1986) explored techniques demonstrated a great talent for creating situa-
outside the apparent naturalism of most of tions and writing biting comedy, Paul Taylor
his other television plays. His screenplays in- has suggested he is ‘less adept at creating plots
clude A Private Function (1984), the ORTON with enough narrative dynamism to propel
biography Prick Up Your Ears (1986), and The his oddballs through a sustained drama’.
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 28

28 BERKOFF, Steven
TRY THESE: Metamorphosis
PINTER ’s The Birthday Party and ORTON ’s Metamorphosis was the most successful of the
Entertaining Mr Sloane for comparisons; BOND ’s London Theatre Group’s productions. In
Saved, CORTHRON , PRICHARD , UPTON for Berkoff ’s hands Kafka’s tale of a young man
rootless young people finding ways to occupy who wakes up to discover he has been trans-
their time. formed into a beetle becomes a sustained
scream of rage against the constraints of con-
ventional society. First performed with
BERKOFF, Steven [1937 – ] Berkoff at the Round House in 1969,
British actor and dramatist Metamorphosis, which is highly stylised using
acrobatics and mime to powerful effect, has
PLAYS AND ADAPTATIONS INCLUDE:
toured extensively in Britain and overseas and
The Penal Colony (1968), Metamorphosis
is now, as a spectacular showcase for an actor,
(1969), The Trial (1970), Agamemnon
a regular feature of the Edinburgh Festival.
(1973), The Fall of the House of Usher (1974),
East (1975), Greek (1979), The Murder of
TRY THESE:
Jesus Christ (1980), Decadence (1981), One
BENNETT ’s Kafka’s Dick is a wildly imaginative
Man (1982), West (1983), Harry’s Christmas
but very Bennett-like play on fame and literature,
(1985), Sink the Belgrano! (1986), Kvetch
in which Kafka is omnipresent; Lindsay Kemp is as
(1987), Brighton Beach Scumbags (1991),
idiosyncratic and unique in his performance style;
Sturm und Drang (1994), Massage (1997),
CARTWRIGHT ’s Road uses language explosively;
Messiah (2000)
the CAPEK brothers’ Insect Play is another
Berkoff is as widely known as a performer as insect-infected metaphor for society.
he is a writer. He studied mime in Paris with
the École Jacques Le Coq, an emphasis very
evident in his performances and plays, which BERNARD, Jean-Jacques [1888 – 1972]
rely as much for their impact on movement as French dramatist
on language. After working in repertory the-
PLAYS INCLUDE:
atre Berkoff went on to found the London
Martine (1922), L’Invitation au Voyage (1924,
Theatre Group, where he began to direct and
Invitation to the Journey), Le Printemps des
to develop adaptations from literature into
Autres (1924, Other People’s Springtime), Le
theatre. Kafka and Edgar Allan Poe were
Roy de Malousie (1928, The King of
favoured authors for this treatment, which
Malousie), La Louise (1930, Our Louise), A La
often involved expressionistic sets and acting
Recherche des Coeurs (1931, Searching for
style. The London Theatre Group also devel-
Hearts), Les Soeurs Guedonec (1931, The
oped a version of AESCHYLUS ’ Agamemnon,
Guedonec Sisters), Jeanne de Pantin (1933),
and Greek tragedy became an informing
Nationale 6 (1935, Highway No 6), Deux
principle of Berkoff ’s own writing. His first
Hommes (1937, Two Men), Le Jardinier
original play was East, which used a juxta-
d’Ispahan (1939, The Gardener of Ispahan)
position of street language with high tragedy
and blank verse to produce a vitriolic and Writing just prior to the generation of
abrasive account of East End life. Greek  COCTEAU ,  GENET and  GIRAUDOUX ,
employed the Oedipus myth to polemicise Bernard is the best-known exemplar of the
about mothers, marriage and women. West ‘theatre of the inexpressible’, a French school
rewrote the Beowulf legend into a scabrous of writers including Denys Amiel and Charles
attack on the British upper classes and was Vildnac in which it’s our unspoken dialogue
(ironically) a great success in the West End, as that resonates, not the words themselves
was his National Theatre revival of his adap- (‘subtext’, as acting teachers might put it).
tation of The Trial in which he starred with Martine, the story of a peasant girl’s mis-
Anthony Sher. Messiah, his most recent work, placed attraction for Julien, a callow upper-
treats Christ as a guerrilla waging a campaign class journalist, proceeds inevitably to its sad
against the Romans. ending, as Martine’s passivity hardens into a
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 29

BETTS, Torben 29

tacit acknowledgement of perpetual rejection cynicism of a former politician. With the


(see Claude Goretta’s film The Lacemaker for general reassessment of mid-twentieth-
a contemporary update on this theme). century drama, a fringe production of The
Nationale 6 tells a similar story of an ordinary Queen and the Rebels in 2002 might presage a
provincial girl done in by an overactive Betti revival, though the odds remain against
imagination, and in Les Soeurs Guedonec two it.
spinsters pass a miserable holiday in complete
silence, accompanied by three loud orphan TRY THESE:
children. The National Theatre once tried its GENET ’s The Balcony, PIRANDELLO ; COLLINS ’
hand with Martine but there has been no Judgement for moral enquiry; ANOUILH ,
significant recent interest. GIRAUDOUX for ethical discussions.

TRY THESE:
CHEKHOV , PINTER , BECKETT for transmuting BETTS, Torben [1968 – ]
the ‘inexpressible’ into art rather than just an end British dramatist
in itself; equally, ROBERT HOLMAN and DURAS
PLAYS INCLUDE:
for the ‘inexpressible’ recall of past emotions; for
Spurning Comfort (1998), A Listening Heaven
treatments of class clashing, CHEKHOV ’s Three
(1999), Mummies and Daddies (1999),
Sisters. Incarcerator (1999), Five Visions of the
Faithful (2000), Clockwatching (2001), The
Biggleswades (2001), Silence and Violence
BETTI, Ugo [1892 – 1953]
(2002)
Italian dramatist and judge
A Liverpool graduate who subsequently
PLAYS INCLUDE:
trained as an actor, Betts earned rave reviews
Il Paese delle Vacanze (1942, Summertime),
for a burst of plays at the turn of the century.
L’Aurola Bruciata (1942, The Burnt
He has been hailed as an outstanding new
Flowerbed), Curruzione al Palasso di Giustizia
voice without the benefit of a production by
(1949, Corruption in the Palace of Justice, also
one of the national companies or in the West
translated for radio as The Sacred Seals), La
End. His stint as writer in residence at
Regina e gli Insorti (1951, The Queen and the
Scarborough inevitably brought comparisons
Rebels)
with AYCKBOURN . Certainly there are simi-
Some Italian critics considered Betti’s later larities to the master in the excruciating
plays even better than those of PIRANDELLO , tragic-comic domestic situations captured in
whose influence is evident in his work. Betti’s acutely observed dialogue in Clockwatching or
themes are moral and in the wider sense A Listening Heaven but Incinerator is a verse
religious: his translator Henry Reed suggested drama of ‘cartoon savagery’ (Michael
that his major theme was ‘man’s fatal dis- Billington). Connal Orton, the literary man-
regard of God’. Carefully plotted and well ager at Scarborough who opened Betts’ unso-
constructed in a conventional way, his plays licited script for A Listening Heaven, has sug-
tend to be set in rather unlocalised symbolic gested that he has now moved beyond his
settings, though the dialogue is naturalistic. ‘social realist phase’ and that ‘his more overtly
His interest is in the personal and ethical poetic plays’ are, in Betts’ words, ‘about char-
problems of his protagonists rather than any acters who can use language and so create
political dialectic: the rebels in The Queen and tragedy, rather than characters who cannot
the Rebels or the contending powers in The (thus creating comedy)’.
Burnt Flowerbed, for instance, are abstractions
without identifiable ideologies. His concerns TRY THESE:
in these plays are the sacrifice by which a CHURCHILL ’s Serious Money for modern verse
prostitute saves the life of a worthless queen drama; Betts has already been compared by
and so herself gains ‘queenly’ virtues, and a reviewers to ALBEE , BARKER , BERKOFF ,
similar self-sacrifice intended to destroy the O’NEILL and PINTER .
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 30

30 BILL, Stephen
BILL, Stephen [1948 – ] BLEASDALE, Alan [1946 – ]
British dramatist British dramatist
PLAYS INCLUDE: PLAYS INCLUDE:
Girl Talk (1977), The Old Order (1979), The The Party’s Over (1975), Down the Dock Road
Final Wave (1979), Piggy Back Riders (1981), (1976), It’s a Madhouse (1976), Should Auld
The Bottom Drawer (1982), Naked in the Bull Acquaintance . . . (1976), No More Sitting on
Ring (1985), Over the Bar (1985), Crossing the Old School Bench (1977), Pimples (1978),
the Line (1987), Curtains (1987), Heart- Crackers (1978), Love is a Many-Splendoured
landers (1989, with ANNE DEVLIN and Thing (1979), Having a Ball (1981), Are You
DAVID EDGAR ), Over a Barrel (1990), Lonesome Tonight? (1985), On the Ledge
Stitched Up (1990), The Antigone Project (1993)
(1992), What the Heart Feels (1996)
A Merseyside writer who until 1985 had
Relatively unrecognised nationally until the developed a strong reputation without ever
success of Curtains, which won three awards having been seen in the West End, Bleasdale is
when it was produced at the Hampstead a gritty comic satirist who has reached his
Theatre in 1987, Bill has a solid record of widest theatre audience with what is, para-
regional successes in the UK, including The doxically, his most earnest work, Are You
Old Order, for which he won the 1979 John Lonesome Tonight? This overtly hagiographic
Whiting Award. Set in Birmingham, Curtains, musical about Elvis Presley aims to set the
an acutely observed savage comedy about a record straight about a musical legend
family birthday celebration which turns into a Bleasdale thinks has been vilified. Set on the
wake, presents an everyday situation of a fam- last day of the King’s life, before drugs and
ily’s attitudes to the problems of ageing and to booze killed him at forty-two in 1977, the
euthanasia in terms which are memorably musical is an unabashedly sentimental picture
comic as well as horrific. It is a well-crafted, of a bloated talent looking back sardonically
almost old-fashioned play, which uses the on his younger self, before he allowed himself
familiar devices of the family gathering and to be mercilessly corrupted by managers, pro-
the unexpected return of the prodigal to moters and the press. Earlier stage plays of
unlock themes and to analyse the roots of note include It’s a Madhouse, set in a psychi-
situations. However, as the shortness of its atric hospital in the north-west of England,
West End run sadly indicates, its sombre and Having a Ball, about four men awaiting
material did not make it a popular favourite. surgery in a vasectomy clinic. On the Ledge is
a very dark tale of urban blight that shares the
TRY THESE: social pessimism of Bleasdale’s television
BLEASDALE and RUSSELL use Liverpudlian series Boys From the Blackstuff, a 1983 howl of
settings and BYRNE uses Glaswegian settings in rage against unemployment, set in Liverpool,
similar ways to Bill’s use of Birmingham; that tapped the psychic pulse of Britain. Peter
SOPHOCLES ’ Oedipus for family reunions that go Smith’s 1985 film No Surrender had a strong
wrong; SHEPARD ’s Buried Child for calamitous Bleasdale script about rival factions in a
consequences of a prodigal’s return; contempo- Liverpool nightclub where the tensions mir-
rary dramatists who share some of Bill’s pre- ror those in Northern Ireland. The powerful
occupations are AYCKBOURN , ORTON and television series The Monocled Mutineer, a
NORMAN (Night Mother); contemporary drama- 1986 World War I parable of powerlessness in
tists from Birmingham include Alan Drury, Thatcher’s Britain, and GBH (1991), which
ELYOT , RUDKIN and ZEPHANIAH . wickedly satirised the battle for ascendancy in
Liverpool between the Labour Party and the
Trotskyite Militant Tendency, stirred up
major controversies. His later television work
Jake’s Progress (1995) is a bleak study of a dys-
functional family but Melissa (1997) is based
on one of Francis Durbridge’s murder mys-
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 31

BLOCK, Simon 31

teries from 1962. His television adaptation of (the strangers were often black). Patient A is
Oliver Twist was screened in 1999 and his based on the true story of Kimberley Bergalis,
Henry VIII is scheduled for 2003. the first known case of a patient becoming
HIV positive as a result of contact with a den-
TRY THESE: tist. It is a three-hander with Blessing himself
RUSSELL as the other pre-eminent Liverpudlian appearing as a character. His early Indepen-
writer; KUREISHI as an urban realist with a dence and Eleemosynary feature all-female
comparable sense of humour; ORTON for black casts and concern relationships between
comedy. mothers and daughters, strained by the
mother’s mental breakdown in the former,
and a grandmother’s stroke in the latter. He
BLESSING, Lee [1949 – ] brought his interests in politics and the
American dramatist maternal together in Going to St Ives.
PLAYS INCLUDE:
TRY THESE:
The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid (1979),
BECKETT ’s Endgame is perhaps the most memo-
Oldtimers Game (1982), Nice People Dancing
rable of all survival games; for diplomacy see
to Good Country Music (1982), Independence
EDGAR ’s The Shape of the Table and
(1983), Riches (1984, formerly War of the
LITTLEWOOD ’s Oh What a Lovely War; HENLEY ’s
Roses), Eleemosynary (1985), A Walk in the
Woods (1987), Two Rooms (1988), Down the
Crimes of the Heart features three sisters dealing
with the legacy of a mentally ill mother;
Road (1989), Cobb (1989), Fortinbras (1991),
NELSON ’s Principia Scriptoriae and HAVIS ’s
Lake St Extension (1992), Patient A (1993),
Chesapeake (1999), Going to St Ives (2000),
Morocco for Americans held prisoner in foreign
lands; STOPPARD ’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
Rewrites (2001)
for new takes on Hamlet; FIERSTEIN and
Minnesota dramatist Blessing’s best-known KRAMER for HIV/AIDS.
play, A Walk in the Woods (winner of the Best
Play award from the American Theatre Critics
Association), presents two statesmen negotiat- BLOCK, Simon
ing in uncharacteristic poses of casualness and British dramatist Plays include:
friendliness: we find them human. As poten-
PLAYS INCLUDE:
tial annihilation hovers over the world, talks of
Not a Game for Boys (1995), Chimps (1997),
disarmament are set in the context of hope –
A Place at the Table (2000), Hand in Hand
in the woods. Placed in the harmonious milieu
(2002)
of the natural, we are reminded of the dangers
of the artificial. A peculiar tension of pes- Block is a witty writer whose plays cover a
simism and possibility dissolves into a wide range of topics with astringently accu-
nihilism that is inherent in survival games. rate character observation. In Not a Game for
The two rooms of Two Rooms are the window- Boys he takes three cab drivers playing a
less cubicle where a hostage is held in Beirut crucial table tennis match as the starting
and the room, stripped of furniture, where the point for an exploration of issues in friend-
prisoner’s wife hopes to share psychically her ship and masculinity. Chimps takes the comic
husband’s ordeal. Some critics pointed to the situation of the door-to-door salesman from
obvious similarities to SARTRE ’s No Exit, but hell and extends it into a PINTERESQUE
the play’s lack of action or point of view dis- nightmare. In his recent plays Block has
tressed others. Cobb explores the myth sur- demonstrated a willingness to tackle subjects
rounding Ty Cobb, baseball star, portrayed at that others might find too taxing: A Place at
three stages of his life by three actors. Blessing the Table has a television company commis-
sees Cobb as a symbol of American greed (the sioning a wheelchair-using writer to create a
player was an early investor in General Motors disability sitcom; in Hand in Hand he deals
and Coca Cola), power (he frequently had vio- with some of the ways in which British Jews
lent encounters with strangers), and racism react to the Palestinian situation.
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 32

32 BOGART, Anne
TRY THESE: and Culture of Desire uses Dante’s journey and
Block has been compared to SIMON GRAY and Warhol’s career as a framework, Bob (seen in
MAMET ; GODBER , IKOLI’ s Pot the Black, London in 2001) is created from the words of
PAGE ’s Golden Girls, STOREY for sports and Robert Wilson and scripted by Jocelyn Clarke
games; AYCKBOURN ’s Man of the Moment for who did the same for Virginia Woolf in Room.
bad television; Graeae and KEMPINSKI for dis-
ability; the male protagonist in Hand in Hand is TRY THESE:
called Ronnie, a name redolent of WESKER ’s MUSSMANN ’s Civil War Chronicles for questions
trilogy; for other responses to Palestine, HARE ’s as to how history is often perceived and con-
Via Dolorosa and PASCAL ’s Crossing Jerusalem. ceived; FOREMAN , Nancy Reilly, Richard
Schechner, Peter Sellars, the Wooster Group
for other Americans engaged in the rearrange-
BOGART, Anne [1951 – ] ment of theatrical forms; BARTLETT and Ariane
American writer and director Mnouchkine for European parallels.
PRODUCTIONS INCLUDE:
Hauptstadt (1979), Inhabitat (1979), Out of
BOGOSIAN, Eric [1953 – ]
Sync (1980), Women and Men: A Big Dance
(1982), History, An American Dream (1983);
American actor, dramatist and screenwriter
The Making of Americans (1985, adapted PLAYS/MONOLOGUES INCLUDE:
from Gertrude Stein), ‘1951’ (1986, with Men Inside (1981), Voices of America (1982),
MAC WELLMAN ), No Plays No Poetry But FunHouse (1983), Talk Radio (1984),
Philosophical Reflections Practical Instructions Drinking in America (1986), Sex, Drugs, Rock
Provocative Prescriptions Opinions and & Roll (1990), SubUrbia (1994), Pounding
Pointers from a Noted Critic and Dramatist Nails in the Floor with my Forehead (1994),
(1988), The Medium (1993), Culture of Desire 31 Ejaculations (1996), Griller (1998), Wake
(1998), Bob (1998), Room (2000) Up and Smell the Coffee (2000), Humpty
Dumpty (2002)
Bogart is one of the USA’s most innovative
and creative directors/writers. Although she In Talk Radio, the late-night talk jockey Barry
creates theatre pieces that most would term Champlain (Bogosian) asserts, ‘This decadent
‘experimental’, she told Catherine Sheehy in a country needs a loud voice – and that’s me’.
Theatre interview that ‘I usually personally This voice, one that characterises much of
resent being called avant-garde because I Bogosian’s work, offers various versions of the
spend most of my time thinking about his- macho male in a political comedy context that
tory, tradition and culture’. Her most widely exploits their stereotypical fictions and makes
acclaimed piece may be No Plays No Poetry, them real. The characters embrace attributes
described by a New York Times critic as ‘an of greed and fear that encumber America’s ego
avant-garde carnival that carries the audience – the boastful, the phoney, the hypocritical. As
from scene to scene in a choreographed comic philistines of a decaying culture, Bogosian’s
pageant that sends up the theoretical writings characters are caught in addiction and victim-
of Bertolt Brecht’. According to Bogart, 97 per isation. At the same time as monologist
cent of the text came directly from BRECHT ’s Bogosian enacts the compulsive behaviour of
critical writing. As a sideshow Barker spouted the white American male, he strips bare his
the history of the theatre according to Brecht, psyche. Bogosian has appeared in many films
a tent opened and the audience could wander including Oliver Stone’s version of Talk Radio.
to any of nine scenes, including one where
nine actors playing Brecht argued about act- TRY THESE:
ing or another where Tina Shepard played SPALDING GRAY , and HOLLY HUGHES for
Brecht playing Charlie Chaplin playing Hitler. trenchant use of the monologue; see also
Much of her work depends on ‘sampling’ GODBER for the British macho male and
other writers and cultural figures. For exam- POLIAKOFF ’s City Sugar for a decadent DJ.
ple, The Medium drew on Marshall McLuhan
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 33

BOLT, Robert 33

BOLGER, Dermot [1959 – ] elsewhere in his writing. April Bright explores


Irish poet, novelist and dramatist family life through juxtaposing the experiences
of two families living in the same house half a
PLAYS INCLUDE:
century apart, and the ghostly theme is carried
The Lament for Arthur Cleary (1989), Blinded
through in The Passion of Jerome where sexual
by the Light (1990), In High Germany (1990),
shenanigans are interrupted by a poltergeist.
The Holy Ground (1990), One Last White
Consenting Adults is a two-hander with a man
Horse (1991), A Dublin Bloom (1994, from
and a woman role-playing in a hotel room,
James Joyce’s Ulysses), April Bright (1996),
touching on themes of desire and identity.
The Passion of Jerome (1999), Consenting
Adults (2000)
TRY THESE:
Bolger’s initial success came as a novelist, his O’CASEY , SYNGE , for earlier issues within
second book, The Woman’s Daughter (1987) tightly knit communities; FRIEL , MURPHY ,
bringing him the AE Memorial Award, the Graham Reid (with his Billy plays, set in modern
Macaulay Fellowship and the Sunday Tribune Belfast) for modern parallels; O’NEILL’S Anna
Arts Award. His first stage play, The Lament Christie has a nostalgia for the exiled Irishman;
for Arthur Cleary – based on his poem of the BRYDEN for Scottish parallels and contrasts;
same name – was premiered to widespread DYER , HORSFIELD for contrast to the football
critical acclaim at the Dublin Theatre Festival fans of In High Germany; COWARD ’s Blithe Spirit
of 1989, picked up a Fringe First the following for another unfortunate ghostly manifestation;
summer in Edinburgh and subsequently won KANE , PINTER , SHEPARD , SIMON for hotel
the Samuel Beckett Award for Best First Play encounters; MARIE JONES ’ Stones in His Pockets
of that year. and MCCAFFERTY ’s Mojo Mickybo for recent Irish
After fifteen years away – bumming round two-handers.
Europe, putting down no roots – Arthur
Cleary comes home. He feels the need to
belong again, but the Dublin he has carried in BOLT, Robert [1924 – 95]
his head and his heart is long gone. Not just British dramatist and screenwriter
the streets of his boyhood, but the neighbour-
PLAYS INCLUDE:
hood ways and hierarchies have been swept
The Critic and the Heart (1957), Flowering
aside by a new set of circumstances: drug
Cherry (1957), A Man for All Seasons (radio
trafficking on the pavements where Cleary was
version 1954; staged 1960), The Tiger and the
once cock o’ the walk. Nowhere in his inner
Horse (1960), Gentle Jack (1963), The
being, not even in the soft corners of his heart
Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew (1965, for
where he holds the love of a young girl he’s just
children), Vivat! Vivat Regina! (1970), State
met, can Cleary accommodate that change. He
of Revolution (1977)
meets his death – Celtic inevitability. Was that
not, after all, the reason for his homecoming? A schoolteacher who began writing plays for
Bolger pinpoints the eternal baggage of the children and then for radio, Bolt modelled
migrant and the exile – a fixed vision of a time The Critic and the Heart on MAUGHAM ’s The
and place when they themselves had rooted Circle, while contemporary critics greeted
identity. It’s common to all races, but with the Flowering Cherry, his first popular success, as
Celts it’s a particular shackle. At home or Chekhovian. Its picture of an insurance sales-
abroad they cannot let go of the past, man living among his own illusions has an
centuries of it, albatross-like around their edge of non-naturalism that contrasts with its
psyche. Hence The Lament – wild with heady, largely conventional structure. Bolt continued
poetic imagery and yet tough with its spare, to try out different theatrical forms, describ-
rapidly shifting scenario, fond with its regard ing A Man for All Seasons as ‘bastardised’
for Arthur and sorrowing at the needless BRECHT . A Man for All Seasons presents the
waste of a bright spirit. conflict between Sir Thomas More and Henry
Bolger’s subsequent theatre work has con- VIII, and the title role gave Paul Scofield a
tinued to tackle many of the themes he raises triumph in both play and film. Here most
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 34

34 BOND, Edward
clearly is the thread that runs right through BOND, Edward [1934 – ]
Bolt’s work, of personal integrity, responsibil- British dramatist
ity and the use of power. Actors and director
PLAYS INCLUDE:
are offered chances to create striking theatre
The Pope’s Wedding (1962), Saved (1965),
and the play has proved a durable favourite
Narrow Road to the Deep North (1968), Early
Bolt’s involvement in the Campaign for
Morning (1968), Black Mass (1970), Passion
Nuclear Disarmament is reflected in The Tiger
(1971), Lear (1972), The Sea (1973), Bingo:
and the Horse, in which an academic wife has
Scenes of Money and Death (1973), The Fool:
to decide whether to sign an anti-bomb peti-
Scenes of Bread and Love (1975), Stone
tion although doing so will jeopardise her
(1976), A-A-America (1976, Grandma Faust
husband’s elevation to Vice Chancellor of his
and The Swing), The Bundle (1978), The
university.
Woman (1978), The Worlds (1979),
Bolt originally proposed that Vivat! Vivat
Restoration (1981), Summer (1982), Derek
Regina! should be given an Oh What a Lovely
(1983), Choruses from after the Assassination
War pier-end-style presentation. It was inten-
(1983), Human Cannon (1985), The War
ded to provide a meaty role for his wife, Sarah
Plays: A Trilogy (1985, Red, Black and
Miles, as Mary Queen of Scots, but he over-
Ignorant, Tin Can People, Great Peace), Burns
wrote the part and the more sparsely written
(1986), September (1989), In the Company of
Elizabeth I is dominant in performance. State
Men (1989), Jackets (1989), Olly’s Prison
of Revolution attempts to present a political
(1993), Tuesday (1993), Coffee: A Tragedy
dialectic rather than a personal story but its
(1995), At the Inland Sea: A Play for Young
hagiographic portrayal of Lenin against a
People (1997), Eleven Vests (1997), Crime in
complex revolutionary background does not
the Twenty-First Century (1999)
come off as well as his Tudor portraits. His
films have been more successful in handling Bond, one of the most radical of dramatists,
epic themes. It would be good to see if Gentle was once called ‘the most important and con-
Jack, drawing parallels between pagan folklore troversial dramatist writing in Britain today’.
and capitalist mores with its onstage presen- Notorious for a scene in Saved in which a
tation of the god Pan and mixture of folk ele- baby is stoned to death, he has consistently
ments, theatrical effects and direct address to written from a Marxist perspective, and
the audience could be made to work today. argues that the shock of such violent images is
necessary to represent the violence that is
TRY THESE: done to people by capitalism.
BRECHT , BRENTON , EDGAR , HARE , Born in London, Bond left school at four-
LITTLEWOOD , PETER SHAFFER for historical teen, worked in factories and offices, writing
epics; BARNES for debunking history; for plays plays in his spare time, and sending them to
on anti-nuclear issues, BLESSING ’s A Walk in the the Royal Court. Saved, developed with the
Woods, BRENTON ’s The Genius, CLARK ’s The Writers’ Group at the Court, was instrumen-
Petition, DARKE ’s The Body, Steven Dietz’s tal in ridding British theatre of the censorship
Fooling Around with Infinity, FORNES ’ The of the Lord Chamberlain. The theatre’s
Danube, FRAYN ’s Copenhagen and LANFORD attempt to stage the play under club condi-
WILSON ’s Angels Fall; LOWE for plays with an tions led to a prosecution, which showed that
anti-war theme; EURIPIDES ’ The Bacchae for such conditions did not offer any protection
Dionysiac experiences and RUDKIN ’s Afore Night from censorship. In 1968, The Theatres Act
Come for countryside rituals to parallel Gentle abolished the powers of the Lord Chamber-
Jack. lain, and Saved and Narrow Road to the Deep
North were toured throughout Europe under
the auspices of the British Council. Black Mass
was written for the anti-apartheid movement;
Stone for Gay Sweatshop; Passion was com-
missioned by the Campaign for Nuclear
Disarmament. Many of Bond’s plays offer
35
BOND, Edward
Page 35
16:04
2/4/07
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp

Saved by Edward Bond, directed by Bill Gaskill, Royal Court Theatre, 1968. (Morris Newcombe/ArenaPAL)
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 36

36 BOUCICAULT, Dion
radical re-readings of historical events, texts set of BECKETT ’s Happy Days, and the pile of
and figures that are commonly held as a sand became a contributory factor to the final
source of national pride: Bingo confronts the image of Scobey; ARDEN , DUFFY , JELLICOE ,
dying and unheroic  SHAKESPEARE and SOYINKA and WESKER were also members of
BEN JONSON ; The Fool is about the ‘peasant the Writer’s Group; BRECHT is a strong influence
poet’ John Clare. Bond has described his and The Narrow Road to the Deep North and its
reworking of King Lear in Lear as ‘an attack on companion play The Bundle use an oriental set-
Stalinism, as seen as a danger to Western rev- ting in ways reminiscent of The Caucasian Chalk
olution, and on bourgeois culture as Circle and The Good Person of Sezchuan; The
expressed in Shakespeare’s Lear’. Bond’s desire Woman is a rereading of the Trojan wars more
to contest the usual connotations of specific familiar in EURIPIDES ’ The Trojan Women,
genres and assumptions about classics also led SHAKESPEARE ’s Troilus and Cressida or
him to write opera libretti (We Come to the GIRAUDOUX ’s The Trojan War Will Not Take Place;
River and The English Cat) and to adapt works Restoration is a rereading of issues dealt with in
by CHEKHOV , WEBSTER and WEDEKIND . Restoration comedy by such writers as BEHN ,
Much of his most recent work is aimed at CONGREVE , ETHEREGE , FARQUHAR ,
young actors and audiences: in 1979 he had WYCHERLEY , VANBURGH ; Bond himself has
cast his play The Worlds with a non-profes- drawn attention to the Oedipal elements in Saved
sional cast of young people from the Court’s (see SOPHOCLES ); SAUNDERS for a parallel
Young People’s Theatre Scheme in an early with The Pope’s Wedding; BLOCK,  PRICHARD ,
demonstration of his commitment to his UPTON for disaffected youth to parallel Saved.
principle that ‘New writing needs new acting,
new directing and new audiences.’ Never a
popular dramatist, his voice has been less BOUCICAULT, Dion(ysus
widely heard in recent years as his type of Larner) [1820 – 96]
political drama has become increasingly Irish actor and dramatist
unfashionable and as a generation of ‘In Yer
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Face’ dramatists has extended his violent
London Assurance (1841), Love in a Maze
metaphors into new territory.
(1851), The Vampire (1852), The Corsican
Brothers (1852), The Poor of New York
Saved
(1857), The Octoroon (1859), The Colleen
Saved is a difficult play to watch; dealing with
Bawn (1860), Arrah-na-Pogue (1864), The
a community of young people in south
Shaughraun (1874)
London it charts their desperate and violent
lives. Its first performance at the Royal Court Greatly admired as an actor in Britain and the
provoked extreme, and extremely polarised, USA, Boucicault was a wide-ranging and pro-
reactions. The Daily Telegraph critic reported lific dramatist who wrote nearly 150 original
‘cold disgust’ and horror at the scene in which plays and adaptations, operettas, pantomimes
a group of young men stone a baby to death and melodramas (including sixteen plays in
(and was not alone in his reaction), while one year). London Assurance (restored to the
other critics and writers greeted the power of modern repertory by a 1975 RSC production)
Bond’s writing and imagery with acclaim. It is presents the courtship by a young gentleman,
not only that scene which makes the play so who is heavily in debt, of a cynical country
harrowing; in one section, the baby wails beauty. She is at first happy at the idea of mar-
unrelentingly while no one on stage responds riage to an old man who will provide her with
to its cries, and the audience is made to phys- a secure income, until she falls in love with his
ically experience the frustration and apathy of son. A witty piece which owes a great debt to
the play’s characters. earlier comedies of manners, its characters are
sharply drawn, and a plot which turns upon a
TRY THESE: father not recognising his disguised son is
KANE ’s Blasted excited as much controversy as acceptable within a structure that includes
Saved; The Pope’s Wedding was first staged on the some farce-like devices. Boucicault rewrote
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 37

BRECHT, Bertolt 37

for local audiences: The Streets of London and cern with Irish politics marks him out as an
The Poor of Liverpool (1864) are almost ancestor of O’CASEY and FRIEL .
identical to The Poor of New York, itself a
version of a French play about the poor of
Paris. Many of his plays offer opportunities BRECHT, Bertolt [1898 – 1956]
for spectacle: the burning of a Mississippi German dramatist, poet, theatrical innovator and
steamer in The Octoroon, or, in Arrah-na- theoretician
Pogue, the whole scene sinking slowly as the
PLAYS INCLUDE:
hero climbs an ivy-clad turret to seize the
Baal (1918), Drums in the Night (1922), In
villain and hurl him to his death. Though
the Jungle of Cities (1923), Edward II (1924,
melodramas like The Vampire follow the
with Lion Feuchtwanger, after MARLOWE ),
pattern for the genre, his work shows careful
The Elephant Calf (c. 1924–5), Man is Man
construction and keen observation. The
(1926), The Threepenny Opera (1928, with
Octoroon was one of the first plays in which
music by Kurt Weill, after GAY ’s The
an American black slave was treated seriously,
Beggar’s Opera), Happy End (1929, with
and the social themes which often attracted
Elisabeth Hauptmann and music by Weill),
him prefigured later dramas about the
He Who Says Yes and He Who Says No
common people. His Irish plays, such as The
(1930), The Measures Taken (1930), The
Shaughraun, provided fine vehicles for him-
Exception and the Rule (1930), The Rise and
self but, though he fought to establish copy-
Fall of the City of Mahagonny (1930; with
right for dramatists in the USA and was the
music by Weill), The Mother (1932, from
first to receive a royalty instead of a flat fee, he
GORKY ), St Joan of the Stockyards (1932),
died an impoverished teacher of acting in
The Seven Deadly Sins (1933, with Weill, also
New York.
known as Anna Anna), Senora Carrar’s Rifles
His plays continue to be revived fairly
(1937, after SYNGE ’s Riders to the Sea), Fear
regularly in Ireland and more occasionally
and Misery of the Third Reich (1938, also
elsewhere: the Abbey’s Colleen Bawn played
known as The Private Life of the Master
successfully at the National Theatre in 1999
Race), Mother Courage and Her Children
and the Watermill, Newbury, ventured far
(1941), The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui
from the beaten track with Love in a Maze in
(1941), The Life of Galileo (1943), The Good
2002: apparently unperformed since 1851, the
Person of Szechwan (1943), Schweik in the
play was welcomed as ‘a light and deliciously
Second World War (1943), The Caucasian
frothy summer entertainment. Particularly in
Chalk Circle (1945), Mr Puntila and His
the final half hour when, weather permitting,
Servant Matti (1948), The Days of the
the action moves . . . into the Watermill’s
Commune (1949), The Tutor (1950, after
enchanting garden where a towering maze,
Jacob Lenz)
designed to look like a pink and white tiered
wedding cake, provides the setting for the res- Brecht is one of the most influential (if often
olution of true love’ (Guardian). unacknowledged) figures in contemporary
culture. His example has changed theatrical
TRY THESE: practice and affected a generation of socialist
The various versions of The Phantom of the Opera dramatists, his principles have informed
offer many of the attractions that delighted contemporary film theory and a whole genre
Boucicault’s nineteenth-century audiences; of ‘agit-prop’ theatre productions and
London Assurance shows resemblances to the companies, and his ‘distancing effects’ are
plays of GOLDSMITH and SHERIDAN (as well now ingrained practice on stage and in much
as another RSC revival, John O’Keefe’s Wild Oats), television and film.
and through them to CONGREVE and other Brecht’s history is bound up in the rise of
Restoration comic dramatists; Donald Sinden, fascism in Germany. Working in 1918 at
who played in the RSC revival of London Augsburg military hospital gave him a lifelong
Assurance, considered it the equal of WILDE ’s commitment to pacifism. He became involved
The Importance of Being Earnest; Boucicault’s con- in the theatre through drama criticism and his
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 38

38 BRECHT, Bertolt
first plays were very much influenced by with Weill; the Lehrstücke (or ‘learning
Expressionism. Baal, the life of a poet, prefig- pieces’) and parable plays and his ‘epic
ures his later work in its deliberately shocking theatre’. In his plays, Brecht often turned to
effects. Brecht went on to become part of a fable and to history, to construct ‘Parables’ for
group of radical intellectuals in the theatre the theatre, offering radical re-readings of
and cultural life of Berlin, becoming increas- familiar texts. When this led to accusations of
ingly involved with Marxist theory, and begin- plagiarism, Brecht’s reply was ‘SHAKESPEARE
ning to develop an aesthetic practice that inte- was a thief ’, not an unreasonable analogy.
grated with his politics, and which was bound In The Messingkauf Dialogues (one of his
up with the social and economic conditions of many writings on theatre) Brecht sets out his
the period. He became very much part of the principles for a ‘Theatre of Reason’ (also
European avant-garde, exchanging ideas with known as epic theatre), in which acting,
the Formalist group in Russia. direction, set design and all aspects of
During the 1920s Brecht’s collaboration theatrical production were organised to
with Kurt Weill gave rise to the musical pro- produce a dramatic effect which challenged
ductions The Threepenny Opera, The Seven the audience and which implicated them in
Deadly Sins and The Rise and Fall of the City of the dramatic events. Central to Brechtian
Mahagonny (produced in the year of the theory is the ‘Verfremdung’ effect (often
German economic crash), which presents a mistakenly translated as ‘alienation effect’;
society in which anything can be had for ‘distancing’ is closer), which refers to devices
money. These plays were much influenced by in staging, acting, music and direction that
the Berlin cabaret of the 1920s and early encourage the spectator to avoid cathartic
1930s, and Brecht argued that the theatre identification. Songs that comment on the
should be a place in which audiences could action of the play, placards to describe the
relax, smoke and drink, the better to take up context, direct address to the audience, open
the points of the play for discussion. set changes all demonstrate the theatre as a
Brecht was on the Nazis’ list of banned place of work. Acting, too, becomes a means
writers, and fled to Denmark the day after the of distancing. Brecht was thoroughly opposed
Reichstag fire. The Danes refused to hand to Stanislavsky’s method of acting the psycho-
Brecht over to the German authorities, but logical ‘truth’ of a character.
when Germany invaded Denmark, Brecht Brecht’s achievement was to demonstrate
escaped to Finland. The events of the rise of his principles in the theatricality of his plays:
fascism are charted in the ironically allegori- their politics become something which the
cal The Rise and Fall of Arturo Ui, in which audience experiences and is given space to
Brecht made an analogy between the rise of think about and to debate. Few have achieved
Nazism and Chicago gangsters. He spent the such a stimulating and actively engaging polit-
years of the war in exile in Hollywood, where ical theatrical practice since it is hard to pro-
he wrote the script for the film Hangmen Also duce work which combines dialectical tough-
Die. In 1947, after an appearance before the ness, humour and theatricality in the way that
House of Representatives’ Un-American Brecht usually did. Brecht’s politics are inte-
Activities Committee, Brecht moved to gral to the structure and form of his drama;
Switzerland, and in 1949 he returned to East his plays are structured around a dialectical
Germany, to take up an offer of his own the- principle, between scene and scene, between
atre and extensive subsidy, founding the audience and stage, and between theatrical
Berliner Ensemble on his own principles of event and political practice. A Brechtian the-
political theatre. On his death it was taken atre practice should never be static, but should
over by his widow, Helene Weigel. respond to contemporary political events, and
Brecht wrote some forty plays altogether, engage the audience in a challenge to ‘com-
which can roughly be divided into three mon sense’ modes of perception. For example,
groups (although there are elements of each in The Good Person of Szechwan and The
phase in most of his plays): the early expres- Caucasian Chalk Circle the difficulties of
sionist plays and the musical pieces he devised behaving humanely are dramatised in, respec-
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 39

BRENTON, Howard 39

tively, a woman who has to invent a male pro- GRASS’ s The Plebeians Rehearse the Uprising
tector (actually herself in disguise) to fend off include Brecht among their characters;
claims on her, and a woman who asserts the BOGART ’s No Plays,No Poetry is a staging of
claims of nurture over biological motherhood Brecht’s theoretical work; GALSWORTHY ,
in a child custody case. O’NEILL , PIRANDELLO , SHAW and
STRINDBERG were among the dramatists
Mother Courage and Her Children banned by the Nazis; BARKER , BRENTON
This play belongs to the ‘epic’ period of (whose The Genius is a response to Galileo, which
Brecht’s work. Although it is often taken as a he adapted for the National Theatre), EDGAR ,
study of the struggle of a resilient woman and TREVOR GRIFFITHS and JOHN MCGRATH are
her family and her doughty survival in a dramatists who have inherited Brechtian princi-
period of war (the Thirty Years’ War), the play ples of theatre; for child custody, DANIELS ’
is structured specifically not to be seen as the Neaptide and RAVENHILL ’s Handbag;
study of a single individual, but as parable and CHURCHILL ’s Serious Money has similarities to
metaphor. Mother Courage is a small business the analyses of capitalism in Mahagonny and The
woman, who struggles with her cart to scrimp Threepenny Opera; St Joan of the Stockyards and
a living for her daughter, the dumb Kattrin, Simone Marchard are treatments of a St Joan
and her sons. Over the course of the play she is figure to be contrasted with SHAW ’s Saint Joan
confronted with decisions that become and ANOUILH ’s The Lark; Happy End has
increasingly complex, and more overtly politi- remarkable similarities to the much later musical
cal. Mother Courage resolutely asserts that she Guys and Dolls; Manfred Karge, author of Man to
is not interested in politics, only the survival Man, worked with Brecht at the Berliner
and care of her family, but the consequence is Ensemble; Georg Kaiser, Ernst Toller for
that she loses them all. Her fate is not a simple Expressionism.
one: the play makes it quite clear that other
decisions could have averted the events of
Mother Courage’s tragedy. Brecht once said: BRENTON, Howard [1942 – ]
‘We must be able to lose ourselves in the agony British dramatist
and at the same time not to. Our actual emo-
PLAYS INCLUDE:
tion will come from recognising and feeling
Gum and Goo (1969), Heads (1969), The
the double process’. This double process is at
Education of Skinny Spew (1969), Revenge
work in Mother Courage: while her situation is
(1969), Christie in Love (1969), Wesley
undoubtedly moving, the play constantly
(1970), Fruit (1970), Lay By (1971, with
points to the events and system which have
BRIAN CLARK , TREVOR GRIFFITHS , DAVID
placed her there, and to her own collusion in
HARE , STEPHEN POLIAKOFF , Hugh Stoddart,
that system. The play is intercut with songs at
SNOO WILSON ), Scott of the Antarctic (1971),
the moments at which Mother Courage is
Hitler Dances (1972), England’s Ireland
required to take action, which point to the far-
(1972, with TONY BICÂT , BRIAN CLARK ,
reaching implications of individual acts. The
DAVID EDGAR, Francis Fuchs, DAVID HARE ,
play has a stunning distancing effect at the
SNOO WILSON ), A Fart for Europe (1973,
moment when Kattrin, silent for the entire
with DAVID EDGAR ), Magnificence (1973),
play, creates its most violent and loudest noise.
Brassneck (1973, with DAVID HARE ), The
In a moment in which she has to make a polit-
Churchill Play (1974), Weapons of Happiness
ical choice between saving other lives or her
(1976), Epsom Downs (1977), Deeds (1978,
own, by banging on a drum she alerts the vil-
with KEN CAMPBELL , TREVOR GRIFFITHS ,
lagers who are about to be destroyed.
DAVID HARE ), Sore Throats (1979), A Short
Sharp Shock (1980, with Tony Howard), The
TRY THESE:
Romans in Britain (1980), Thirteenth Night
BOND called his own theatrical project ‘Rational
(1981), The Genius (1983), Sleeping
Theatre’, in homage to BRECHT ’s ‘Theatre of
Policemen (1983, with TUNDE IKOLI ), Bloody
Reason’; Nigel Gearing’s Berlin Days, Hollywood
Poetry (1984), Pravda (1985, with DAVID
Nights, HAMPTON ’s Tales from Hollywood, HARE ), Greenland (1988), Iranian Nights
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 40

40 BRENTON, Howard
(1989, with Tariq Ali), Moscow Gold (1990, workshopped with students at what is now
with Tariq Ali), Berlin Bertie (1992), Ugly London Metropolitan University, is an excit-
Rumours (1998 with Tariq Ali), Collateral ing exploration of the construction of identity
Damage (1999, with Tariq Ali and Andy de la in the context of modern ideas about cloning.
Tour), Snogging Ken (2000, with Tariq Ali His is an uncomfortable talent, with a par-
and Andy de la Tour) ticular capacity for anatomising the unhealthy
state of Britain today and exhuming the
Although he has achieved recognition as one uncomfortable truths about the past that peo-
of Britain’s leading dramatists, with plays pro- ple would rather forget in ways that antago-
duced by the National Theatre, RSC and even nise the Establishment. There was a major
a Royal Court season in 1988 which included row over The Romans in Britain when moral
revivals of Bloody Poetry and Sore Throats as uproar over the simulated anal rape of a
well as the premiere of Greenland, Brenton Druid led to a prosecution that was ultimately
remains an independent figure committed to abandoned. It was probably more than coin-
contemporary political satire as well as to cidental that Romans says some rather
writing for television (characteristically witty uncomfortable things about imperialism,
contributions to Spooks) and working with including the current situation in Northern
students. A committed socialist, Brenton Ireland, since there was considerable resist-
tackles his themes with a cartoon-like ferocity ance throughout the 1970s to theatrical treat-
and humour that has not diminished since his ments of the Irish question. From his anti-
early fringe days with the Combination and Enoch Powell version of Measure for Measure
Portable Theatre. Brenton’s work is consis- at Exeter in 1972, through the presentation of
tently engaged with topical issues and imme- the ghost of Airey Neave in A Short Sharp
diate concerns, as in Wesley, written to be Shock, to his work with Tariq Ali (Iranian
performed in a Methodist chapel, or Scott of Nights arises from the Salman Rushdie affair,
the Antarctic, performed on an ice rink. But and Moscow Gold offers a carnivalesque
even in his most topical plays there is an abid- Meyerholdian picture of Gorbachev’s rise to
ing concern with making people aware of the power and his attempts to hold together the
underlying nature of their situation, what Soviet Union against the forces of reaction
represses them and what sustains them, and and disintegration) and their topical satires
encouraging them to change things for the with Andy de la Tour, he has been an astrin-
better. In Epsom Downs Brenton and the Joint gent unsettler of the cosy and the complacent.
Stock Theatre Group take the temperature of
Britain on Derby Day 1977 in a kaleidoscopi- Bloody Poetry
cally inventive re-creation and interrogation Bloody Poetry, commissioned by the touring
of the contradictions of that event as the company Foco Novo of which Brenton was a
ghost of the suffragette Emily Davison board member, grapples with sexual and other
attempts to persuade a modern woman to try politics, the role of the artist and the need to
to slash the picture as she did when she ran make revolutions in the heart and mind as
out in front of the king’s horse in the 1913 much as in the body politic. Byron, SHELLEY ,
Derby. The play is comically incisive in its Mary Shelley and Claire Clairemont reach out
presentation of contradictions and in its for a model of existence which is beyond their
interweaving of threads within the apparently grasp, at great cost to themselves and to their
haphazard events of Derby Day. Brenton has families. Brenton has described this as a
written on the criminalisation and corruption utopian play, which has led some critics to cas-
of society, from his early Revenge through to tigate him for his male characters’ sexism, but
Pravda, and on the difficulties of effecting he is actually concerned with the forces, sexism
change, from the gesture politics of included, which militate against the creation of
Magnificence to the nuclear politics of The utopia. Other forces also stand in the way:
Genius, in which two mathematicians try to some people refused to see the play because it
evade the forces that would turn their discov- had ‘bloody’ in the title, others because of the
eries to destructive use. His One Once (1999), presence of ‘poetry’!
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 41

BRIDIE, James 41

TRY THESE: the sexual roles reversed, featured Ruth


Brenton has adapted BRECHT , BÜCHNER , Maleczech as Queen Lear with her three sons.
GOETHE and Manfred Karge’s The Wall Dog; Frank Episale’s review of Ecce Porco gives
JONSON ’s Bartholomew Fair also takes the some idea of Breuer’s work: ‘Over the course
nation’s temperature on a holiday; NICHOLS ’ The of four hours, the audience is treated to a
National Health does the same through an institu- Bunraku-style puppet named John who mas-
tion; JELLICOE ’s Shelley and LOCHHEAD ’s Blood turbates while having phone sex with a dog, a
and Ice tackle the Shelleys, LUCIE ’s Progress for flying tantric sex therapist, a heartfelt mono-
an attempt to build a new society, flawed by old logue from Marge Simpson, and a piggish
sexisms; BARKER ’s Scenes from an Execution, man named Porco who re-enacts scenes from
DEAR ’s The Art of Success for the role of the artist the lives of Meyerhold and Orson Welles.’
and their relationship to the body politic;
BEATON for contemporary satire; Justin TRY THESE:
Butcher’s The Madness of George Dubya for Gulf GENET for early inspiration; BECKETT ,
War II satire. HANDKE and IONESCO for redefining the
range of theatrical possibility; BOGART ,
FOREMAN , San Francisco Mime Troupe, Peter
BREUER, Lee [1937 – ] Sellars Robert Wilson, The Wooster Group,
American avant-garde writer and director Meredith Monk for other pre-eminent figures in
the American avant-garde; Laurie Anderson for
PRODUCTIONS INCLUDE:
multimedia performance.
Red Horse Animation (1970), The B-Beaver
Animation (1974), The Lost Ones (1977), The
Shaggy Dog Animation (1977), Prelude to
BRIDIE, James (Osborne Henry
Death in Venice (1980), Sister Suzie Cinema
Mavor) [1888 – 1951]
(1980), Red Beads (1982). Hajj (1983); The
Warrior Ant (1988), Lear (1990), An Epidog
Scottish doctor and dramatist
(1995), Ecce Porco (2002), Red Beads (2002) PLAYS INCLUDE:
The Sunlight Sonata (1928, as Mary
In 1970 Breuer was a co-founder of Mabou
Henderson), The Anatomist (1930), Tobias
Mines with David Warrilow, JoAnne Akalaitis,
and the Angel (1930), Jonah and the Whale
Philip Glass and Breuer’s sometime wife,
(1932), A Sleeping Clergyman (1933), Colonel
actress Ruth Maleczech. Long acclaimed as a
Wotherspoon (1934), Mary Read (1934), The
leading experimental theatre group, the com-
Black Eye (1935), Storm in a Teacup (1936,
pany’s work is intellectual in conception,
adapted from Bruno Frank), Susannah and
drawing inspiration from various sources and
the Elders (1937), The King of Nowhere
often blending multimedia staging with heavy
(1938), What They Say (1941), Mr Bolfry
use of linguistic play.
(1943), It Depends What You Mean (1944),
Breuer travelled through Europe during
The Forrigan Reel (1944), Dr Angelus (1947),
the 1960s, and much of his early work reflects
Daphne Laureola (1949), Mr Gillie (1950),
the alienating effects of the European avant-
The Baikie Charivari (1952), Meeting at
garde. In recent years, Breuer’s work has
Night (1954)
drawn heavily upon the intermingling of
diverse cultures to shed new light on both tra- Bridie’s plays range from biblical and hagio-
ditional and innovative material. His multi- graphic tales to a play based on the Edinburgh
cultural stagings have achieved mixed results body-snatchers Burke and Hare (The
ranging from spectacular fusing of disparate Anatomist), to the episodic history of an eigh-
elements to what one critic has labelled teenth-century woman pirate (Mary Read).
‘grotesque hybrids’. His 1982 collaboration Mr Bolfry, one of his most successful plays,
with composer Bob Telson, Gospel at Colonus, tells how the Devil visits a Scots minister in
a sung gospel version of Greek tragedy, was a the shape of another clergyman. Together
stunning illumination of the deepest spiritual they form an alliance against non-believers,
elements in SOPHOCLES . His Lear, with all but when they meet later as antagonists the
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 42

42 BRIGHOUSE, Harold
issue is undecided. The minister returns the comedy Zack played at the Royal
home thinking himself triumphant, only to Exchange, Manchester in 1976 and 1986 with
see the Devil’s umbrella rise and stalk slowly some success. Several of his one-act plays,
from his house. A Sleeping Clergyman is a such as Lonesome Like, would easily bear
study of heredity through three generations, revival if anyone did one-act plays any more.
which shows that though ‘evil’ may persist
through seduction, blackmail and murder, TRY THESE:
‘good’ can reappear just when the world most HOUGHTON for another ‘Manchester School’
needs it – in this case medical genius. dramatist; Elizabeth Baker’s Chains and Githa
Although it tends to be individual perform- Sowerby’s Rutherford and Son for contemporary
ances in Bridie’s plays that people remember, women dramatists’ views of similar issues; DE
rather than the plays themselves, they are still ANGELIS ’s Iron Mistress for a modern angle;
occasionally revived, particularly in Scotland, GUPTA for a contemporary version of Hobson’s
where Bridie was a co-founder of the Glasgow Choice.
Citizens’ Theatre, and instrumental in estab-
lishing the Royal Scottish Academy of Music
(now the Academy of Music and Drama). BRYDEN, Bill [1942 – ]
Scottish dramatist, director and filmmaker
TRY THESE:
PLAYS INCLUDE:
FRY for religious themes; CHEKHOV as another
Willie Rough (1972), Benny Lynch (1974),
dramatist who brought his doctor’s observation
Old Movies (1977), Civilians (1981), The Ship
of character to his work; GOOCH ’s The Women-
(1990), The Big Picnic (1994).
Pirates Ann Bonney and Mary Read; BARRIE , as a
Scottish contemporary; HELLMAN for discus- Bryden’s plays are only a small part of his work
sions of moral values; O’MALLEY ’s Talk of The in theatre, television and film. As Associate
Devil, DEKKER , FORD and ROWLEY ’s The Director at Edinburgh’s Lyceum (1971–4),
Witch of Edmonton, HAVEL ’s Temptation for dev- Bryden staged Willie Rough, deriving from his
ilish visitations. grandfather’s experience, an examination of
working-class life against the backdrop of ship-
yard politics between the wars. Benny Lynch
BRIGHOUSE, Harold [1882 – 1958] was again about the aspirations and daily
British dramatist drudge-and-grudge of the working classes,
represented by this ‘bonniest o’ fechters’ who
PLAYS INCLUDE:
rose to world status only to end, exploited and
Dealing in Futures (1910), Lonesome Like
discarded, in the gutter. In 1981 he wrote and
(1911), Graft (1912, originally entitled The
directed Civilians, a fond, anecdotal glimpse of
Polygon), Garside’s Career (1914), Hobson’s
1940s Greenock life, for the (short-lived)
Choice (1915), Zack (1916)
Scottish Theatre Company. As Head of Drama
Part of the ‘Manchester School’ of dramatists, Television with BBC Scotland he encouraged
Brighouse wrote and produced some seventy writers such as Peter MacDougall,  IAN
plays, mostly realistic and set in Lancashire. HEGGIE and JOHN BYRNE and at the National
The most well known of these is Hobson’s Theatre he directed an enormously successful
Choice, a play ‘built like an iron girder’ promenade version of the medieval Mysteries.
(Michael Billington), whose heroine, the Conceived as part of Glasgow’s year-long
strong-minded and down-to-earth Maggie thrash as European City of Culture in 1990,
Hobson, thirty years old and thought ‘past the The Ship was a spectacularly staged celebration
marrying age’, marries the shy but talented of Clyde shipbuilding in its last years of great-
boot-maker Willie Mossop out of hand (he ness. A disused riverside engine shed became
not having much say in the matter), and with an ad hoc theatre and, thanks to designer
him takes over the town’s boot-making busi- William Dudley, the inner decks and shell of a
ness from her heavy father. The play is still liner-in-progress encompassed the performing
revived in Britain, most recently in 2002, and space. The action, such as it was (mostly short
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 43

BUFFINI, Moira 43

scenes of anecdotal exchange between workers tionary ‘Young Germany’ movement, he


interspersed with jock-rock music), culmi- developed his own political philosophy, which
nated in a cunning coup de théâtre, the appar- turned its back on the educated classes, plac-
ent launching of the boat. The sheer persuasive ing its hopes instead with the peasantry. After
showmanship of all this did much to offset the his involvement with an abortive attempt to
banalities of the script, which reduced the hard overthrow the government of the state of
men and hard times of post-war Clydeside to a Hesse in 1834, he withdrew from revolution-
series of ciphers and clichés. Critical reaction ary politics. He wrote Danton’s Death in 1835
was mixed, but The Ship proved one of the and the following year became a lecturer in
most popular events of Glasgow’s 1990 pro- anatomy at the University of Zurich. He
gramme and confirmed Bryden’s charismatic worked on Woyzeck that year, drawing on the
image as a shaker and mover within theatre. details of a controversial court case, but died
of typhoid fever in 1837 with Woyzeck still not
TRY THESE: complete. In Woyzeck the central character,
CORRIE ’s In Time o’ Strife (1927) portrays a Fife Woyzeck, is a repressed and oppressed soldier,
mining community during the last days of the crushed by his social superiors, goaded by his
General Strike; Ena Lamont Stewart’s Men mistress, tormented by his own sense of guilt.
Should Weep and Benedict Scott’s Lambs of God Although Büchner never put the play into a
both show darker sides to tenement life in the final form, each of its scenes is remarkably
1930s and 1940s; Roddy McMillan’s The Bevellers powerful, and cumulatively they create an
is a lively, shrewd depiction of men at work – the overpowering atmosphere of alienation and
‘bevelling’ is the finishing edge on mirrors; bleakness. Woyzeck ultimately perishes, but in
BOLGER ’s The Lament for Arthur Cleary as an Irish highly ambiguous circumstances which delib-
equivalent of the exile’s nostalgia for home; erately confuse suicide and accident. Berg’s
HARRISON adapted the Mysteries for Bryden’s operatic treatment, Wozzeck, owes its title to a
production; Keith Dewhurst’s adaptation of Lark misreading of the manuscript.
Rise to Candleford for promenade performance.
TRY THESE:
Kafka’s Metamorphosis and The Trial for a sense of
BÜCHNER, Georg [1813 – 37] the individual being crushed; ABBOTT ’s Three
German dramatist Men on a Horse for a more light-hearted treat-
ment of the little man at the mercy of external
PLAYS INCLUDE:
forces; MILLER ’s Death of a Salesman, O’NEILL
Danton’s Death (1835), Leonce and Lena
for individuals crushed by social forces; Büchner
(1836), Woyzeck (1836)
was much influenced by SHAKESPEARE ; his
Although his plays were not performed until plays in turn influenced such apparently opposed
many years after his death, Büchner is one of figures as ARTAUD and BRECHT ; Ariane
the major influences in contemporary world Mnouchkine’s 1789 is the French Revolution play;
drama. Somehow he managed to foreshadow see also GEMS ’ adaptation of Stanislawa
many of the great theatrical movements of the Przybsiewska’s The Danton Affair, which itself was
twentieth century: Epic theatre, Surrealism, highly influenced by Danton’s Death; WEISS ’s
Expressionism, and the Theatre of the Absurd. Marat/Sade for other aspects of the French
The sense of history as a major force domi- Revolution; Linda Mussmann for an extended
nates his work, as does society as the destroyer engagement with Danton’s Death.
of the individual. His principal characters
struggle unsuccessfully to communicate their
feelings until they recognise their helplessness BUFFINI, Moira [1967 – ]
and incomprehension in the face of the forces British dramatist
that destroy them.
PLAYS INCLUDE:
The son of a doctor, Büchner studied
Jordan (1992, with Anna Reynolds),
medicine at the Universities of Strasburg and
Blavatsky’s Tower (1997), Gabriel (1997),
Giessen. Strongly influenced by the revolu-
Doomsday Girl (1998), Silence (1999), The
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 44

44 BULGAKOV, Mikhail Afanasievich


Games Room (2000), Loveplay (2001), Dinner Guard (about the horrors of the civil war in
(2002) Kiev, and unusually sympathetic to the White
side) into a play. At first delighted, Bulgakov
After studying drama and English at univer- was soon disconcerted by the cutting and
sity, Buffini trained as an actor, winning a reshaping required to suit the company and
Time Out award for her performance in the changing of the title and the ending to suit
Jordan, a monologue based on the true story the censor (the Bolsheviks are welcomed to
of a woman who killed her infant son after the strains of The Internationale). He went on
being abused by her husband. Gabriel centres to write thirteen more plays and to become
on reactions to the mysterious eponymous arguably the most important Soviet dramatist
character, washed up naked on a beach in of the period. His theatrical career was
wartime Guernsey with no memory and no blighted by Molière, in which the contempo-
identity. Silence is a first-millennium comedy rary relevance of references to the frustrations
about non-stereotypical knights and maidens, of the artist controlled by the State were only
while Loveplay is a satirical history of two too obvious. After four years in rehearsal, it
thousand years of sex in the same place. was taken off after less than a week. But
Dinner is a darkly comic account of the din- Bulgakov had his revenge in the very thinly dis-
ner party from hell complete with the guised, very unkind and very funny accounts of
stranger who has crashed his van just outside the Moscow Arts Theatre and of Stanislavsky’s
the house and a Pinteresquely menacing system, in his novel Black Snow (written
waiter. Buffini appears to be developing a 1936–7, published 1965). The best section of
strong comic voice but as yet the jury is out on the book is perhaps the instruction to the
whether she can sustain fully worked-out author to write in older roles (his play has no
dramatic structures to deliver her perceptions. character over twenty-eight, but the company
includes nobody under fifty). The White Guard
TRY THESE: is perhaps his best-known play in Britain; but
AYCKBOURN ’s Communicating Doors, adaptations of his novels The Master and
SCHNITZLER ’s La Ronde, SIMON for variations Margarita and The Heart of a Dog have been
on sex over the years/with different partners; successful. The National Theatre staged Keith
BARKER ’s The Castle for a different take on the Dewhurst’s adaptation of Black Snow in 1991
medieval period; ISITT , SENECA , and Flight in a version by RON HUTCHINSON in
SHAKESPEARE ’s Titus Andronicus, WHITEHEAD 1998. The Old Red Lion staged the British pre-
for bad culinary experiences; CHRISTIE ’s The miere of Zoyka’s Apartment in 1999.
Mousetrap for a stranger with a broken-down car.
TRY THESE:
ARBUZOV , GORKY , MAYAKOVSKY for other
BULGAKOV, Mikhail well-known Soviet dramatists; MOLIÈRE for his
Afanasievich [1891 – 1940] own plays; on the theme of state control and
Russian novelist, journalist and dramatist artistic freedom, musical variations in
STOPPARD ’s Every Good Boy Deserves Favour and
PLAYS INCLUDE:
POWNALL ’s Master Class, with Shostakovich and
The Days of the Turbins (1926, a dramatisa-
Prokofiev as characters.
tion of his novel The White Guard), The
Crimson Island (1927), Flight (1928), Zoyka’s
Apartment (1928), Dead Souls (1928, from
BULLINS, Ed [1935 – ]
GOGOL ), Molière (1936), Don Quixote
(1940), The Last Days of Pushkin (published
American dramatist
1943) PLAYS INCLUDE:
The Theme of Blackness (1966), The Electronic
Born in Kiev, Bulgakov qualified as a doctor,
Nigger (1968), The Gentleman Caller (1969),
and became a professional writer in 1919.
The Duplex (1970), The Fabulous Miss Marie
Pavel Markov, the Moscow Arts Theatre’s dra-
(1970), The Taking of Miss Janie (1975),
maturg, asked him to turn his novel The White
Leavings (1980), American Griot (1990),
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 45

BUSCH, Charles 45

Salaam, Huey Newton, Salaam (1991), City won a Fringe first at the 2001 Edinburgh
Preacher (2001) Festival before a run at the National Theatre
and in the West End. Finally, Burke was
Continual torment surrounds Bullins’ drama declared to be the ‘Most Promising Dramatist’
as he presents a sceptical, and even cynical, of 2001. Gagarin Way takes its title from a
view of the dichotomy of black participation street named after the first man in space in a
in a white, intellectual, middle-class commu- Fife mining village that was a communist
nity, and the exclusion from that life of the stronghold. The play deals with two disillu-
majority of blacks whose life in the inner-city sioned workers in an electronics factory who
slum plays out its own self-awareness. The decide to kidnap a visiting manager as a
Electronic Nigger dramatises the collective protest against the way globalised business
recognition of black artists and intellectuals treats its workers as expendable commodities.
of the 1960s – a rebellious voice that refuses However, he turns out not to be the faceless
the stamp of approval by the white literary international capitalist they are expecting but
establishment. The Duplex accomplishes a local man who has become a successful
Bullins’ intent to write for a black audience, to player in the global market. As the Daily
expose the tragedy of the ghetto with a dra- Telegraph put it: ‘It’s slick, funny, original and
matic structure that is more about life than violent (both in language and in deed), and
theatre. Scenes assault, conflicts abide, resolu- above all it is grippingly theatrical . . . Great
tions are sparse. As with the black ghetto, the jokes collide with Marxist dialectic, brutal
play’s end provokes frustration with no relief violence is combined with hilarious cock-ups,
in sight. Bullins exposes the corruption of while the dialogue has a foul-mouthed vigour
white values that represses and denies any that puts one in mind of DAVID MAMET’ .
respectability to being black in America. As Burke said: ‘I wanted to write some-
Bullins’ idiom clearly articulates the voice of thing about the twentieth century and I
black power that is resolute with future con- wanted to write something about economics
frontation and promised change. and I wanted to write about men . . . I didn’t
expect it to be a comedy but when you con-
TRY THESE: sider the themes which emerged while I wrote
BARAKA traces a similar evolutionary black it – Marxist and Hegelian theories of history,
awareness; KENNEDY ’s Funnyhouse of a Negro anarchism, psychopathology, existentialism,
struggles with black identity. HANSBERRY ’s A mental illness, political terrorism, nihilism,
Raisin in the Sun places her black family in a construct theory, globalisation and the crisis
middle-class district, struggling for acceptance; in masculinity – then it couldn’t really be any-
WOLFE also shows the dichotomy of black thing else’.
participation in white society through astringent
satire. TRY THESE:
CORRIE for Scottish mining communities;
EDGAR ’s That Summer for the 1984 miners’
BURKE, Gregory [1968 – ] strike; FO ’s Trumpets and Raspberries for political
Scottish dramatist kidnapping; PINTER ’s The Dumb Waiter for hit
men; SARTRE and GENET are discussed in the
PLAYS INCLUDE:
play; reviewers compared Burke to
Gagarin Way (2001), The Straits (2003)
BUTTERWORTH and MCDONAGH .
Burke, a Dunfermline-born dropout from
Stirling University, is proof that occasionally
showbiz clichés can come true. His is the one BUSCH, Charles [1955 – ]
about the writer who sends in the unsolicited American writer and performer
script that goes all the way to the National
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Theatre. Burke sent Gagarin Way to the
Theodora, She-Bitch of Byzantium (1984),
Traverse Theatre Edinburgh in 1998; John
Times Square Angel (1984), Vampire Lesbians
Tiffany, the literary director, liked it and it
of Sodom (1984), Gidget Goes Psychotic
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 46

46 BUTLER, Leo
(1986, later changed to Psycho Beach Party), BUTLER, Leo
Pardon My Inquisition, or Kiss the Blood Off British dramatist
My Castenets (1986), The Lady in Question
(1988), Red Scare on Sunset (1991), You PLAYS INCLUDE:
Should Be So Lucky (1994), Queen Made of Stone (2000), Redundant (2001),
Amarantha (1997), Shanghai Moon (1999), Devotion (2002)
Die, Mommy, Die! (1999), The Tale of the Sheffield-born Butler won the George Devine
Allergist’s Wife (2000) award for Redundant, his second play. It is a
familiar Royal Court portrait of life in the
All of Busch’s camp comedies are filled with grim estates of the inner city with teenage
suspense, transformations and redemptions. pregnancy, drugs and social security pay-
The heroines, played by Busch in drag, range ments providing the context for an astutely
from vampire show-business queens, to the observed complex central character.
multiple personalities of Chicklet (a stand-in
for Gidget), to Gertrude Garnet a concert TRY THESE:
pianist. Hollywood provides endless fascina- BOND , CARTWRIGHT , DUNBAR , WYNNE are
tion for Busch. Times Square Angel sends up among the dramatists who have covered similar
film noir as he plays Irish O’Flanagan, a 1940s territory on the Royal Court stage.
torch singer. The Lady in Question spoofs
World War II anti-Nazi films and enjoyed a
lengthy off-Broadway run. In Red Scare on BUTTERWORTH, Jez [1969 – ]
Sunset, the audience finds itself in the strange British dramatist
position of cheering on a heroine whose poli-
PLAYS INCLUDE:
tics are repulsive (she is a right-wing
Mojo (1995), The Night Heron (2002)
McCarthyite who rats on her husband), and
critics largely seemed to feel this ambiguity Butterworth’s first play, Mojo, was a huge suc-
gave the play a depth his previous work may cess, winning Olivier, George Devine and
have lacked. Shanghai Moon and Die, Mommy, Evening Standard awards for its author with
Die! target exotic eastern melodrama and the its bleakly savage account of Soho low life in
Grand Guignol films of the 1960s respectively. the 1950s. Critics praised Butterworth for cre-
All Busch’s characters satirise Hollywood ating ‘a pulsating, rhythmic sort of diction’
stereotypes; his dialogue is filled with the (Evening Standard) and for his skill in imag-
pungent humour of psychosexual clichés and ining a Tarantino-like world of skulduggery
the occasional hype of comic-book smut. in the music business as vested interests clash
Busch’s women avoid the punch of cynicism over the fate of a pop singer. The subsequent
and animosity that often accompany the con- film was less successful but Butterworth’s sec-
vention of the drag show. Rather he allows the ond play, The Night Heron, suggested that he
presentation of the woman as glamorous and was more than a creator of superior gangster
heroic to be the liberation of a whole vocabu- pastiche. Set in the Fens, it blends a raft of
lary of expression that is less political and narrative threads into a complex weave of
more aesthetic. resonances. Two former gardeners at a
Cambridge college and their lodger, a former
TRY THESE: inmate of Holloway prison, try to make ends
LUDLAM ’s Theater of the Ridiculous for camp that meet by winning a poetry competition but as
explores sexual ambiguity: the drag queen with they can’t actually write a good poem they
pathos can be found in La Cage aux Folles and kidnap a student to write one for them. Like
FIERSTEIN ’s Torch Song Trilogy; EICHELBERGER the eponymous bird, the characters are in the
for a unique blend of camp with high art; wrong place at the wrong time: the college
BARTLETT ’s Sarrasine and A Vision of Love was Corpus Christi, Andrew Marvell’s The
Revealed in Sleep; O’BRIEN ’s The Rocky Horror Garden makes an appearance and there is a
Picture Show for another version of camp. strong sense that these are characters expelled
from Eden and searching for redemption.
B Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:04 Page 47

BYRNE, John 47

TRY THESE: England and the USA for years with his ironic
Critics compared Mojo to BECKETT on speed observations on literary pretension (in
(Observer) and TOURNEUR ’s The Revenger’s Writer’s Cramp) and everyday working life in
Tragedy; ACKLAND for Soho; PINTER for paral- The Slab Boys trilogy, which starts with ado-
lels; RUDKIN ’s Afore Night Come for rural menace; lescence in The Slab Boys itself, takes us
BOND ’s The Pope’s Wedding and CHURCHILL ’s through the staff dance in Cuttin’ a Rug, and
Fen for other views of East Anglian rural isolation. ends in the cemetery in Still Life. Byrne
trained at the Glasgow School of Art and his
work reveals in its different moods both a
BYRNE, John [1940 – ] painter’s eye for detailed observation and a
Scottish artist, designer and dramatist cartoonist’s gift for caricature. The interest
tends to be less in plot and more in the pres-
PLAYS INCLUDE:
entation of memorable characters. In recent
Writer’s Cramp (1977), The Slab Boys (1978.
years he has concentrated on his work as a
also known as Paisley Pattems), Cuttin’ a Rug
visual artist, although the Slab Boys trilogy is
(1979; originally The Loveliest Night of the
still produced in Scotland.
Year, also performed on radio as The Staffie
and as Threads), Normal Service (1979), Still
TRY THESE:
Life (1982), Candy Kisses (1984), Colquhoun
HASTINGS ’ Tom and Viv and PINTER ’s No Man’s
and Macbryde (1988), The Government
Inspector (adapted from GOGOL , 1997)
Land offer contrasting views of the literary world;
LUCIE ’s view of an advertising agency in Fashion
Widely known to British television audiences makes an interesting comparison with the televi-
in the 1980s after the success of his series Tutti sion station of Normal Service; WESKER ’s Trilogy
Frutti and Your Cheatin’ Heart, Byrne has is one of the best known modern set of linked
been delighting theatre audiences in Scotland, plays; HEGGIE for robust Glaswegian dialect.
C Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:06 Page 48

 
C 
CALDERÓN DE LA BARCA, girl still ends up in a nunnery. Life is a Dream,
Pedro [1600 – 81] commonly thought his masterpiece, is a com-
Spanish dramatist plex and unusual play about the Polish Crown
Prince Sigismondo, hidden away in a tower in
PLAYS INCLUDE:
a wood by his father because of a prophecy
The Phantom Lady (1629), The Constant
that he would grow up as a monster of cruelty,
Prince (1629), Life is a Dream (1635), The
and his gradual education and emergence as a
Physician of His Honour (1635), Three
wise ruler. The plot incorporates philosophi-
Judgements in One (1636?), The Mayor of
cal discussion of reason versus natural
Zalamea (1643), The Great Theatre of the
impulses and free will defeating superstitious
World (1645), The Painter of his own
prophecy.
Dishonour (1650)
Calderón is the most polished Spanish TRY THESE:
dramatist of the Golden Age – less prolific Von Hofmannsthal and Max Reinhardt for an
than LOPE DE VEGA , he borrowed freely updating of The Great Theatre of the World,
from his predecessors, tightened up plots and Grotowski for his version of The Constant Prince;
characterisation, and added a peculiarly HANDKE ’s Kaspar for mysterious upbringing;
intense line in passionate conflicts with often CAMERON ’s Strugglers, Eve Lewis’s Ficky
shocking outcomes. He studied for the priest- Stingers, MASTROSIMONE ’s Extremities for very
hood, but soon took up duelling, women and different handlings of rape; LORCA for later
poetry. His first known play was staged at the Spanish drama.
Spanish court when he was twenty-three, and
he claimed to have written about 120 secular
plays, eighty autos sacramentales (the Spanish CAMERON, Richard [1948 – ]
form of morality play, performed on great British dramatist and director
church occasions) in his later and more pious
PLAYS INCLUDE:
years, and twenty minor pieces. He is also
Handle with Care (1985), Strugglers (1988),
credited with the invention of the zarzuela,
The Moon’s The Madonna (1989), Can’t
the classic Spanish musical form. His range
Stand Up for Falling Down (1990), Pond Life
covers comedies of manners, cloak-and-
(1992), Not Fade Away (1993), Almost Grown
sword plays, historical plays and honour-and-
(1994), The Mortal Ash (1994), All of You
jealousy plays such as The Physician of His
Mine (1997) The Glee Club (2002)
Honour, his most notorious ‘honour’ play, in
which a husband has his wife’s blood drained A sensitive chronicler of the joys and sorrows
on the mere suspicion of adultery, and the of adolescent experience with a sophisticated
King not merely commends his action but eye for structure, Cameron won the Sunday
offers our hero another bride. The Mayor of Times Playwriting Award three times, but his
Zalamea, based on an earlier work attributed concern for childish things and the
to LOPE DE VEGA , is the story of a Spanish unabashed kindness of spirit of his plays did
peasant whose daughter is raped by an aristo- not attract professional directors or adult
cratic captain, and who then becomes the audiences until Can’t Stand Up for Falling
Mayor and sentences the captain to garrotting Down. This is the story of the damage
– all are agreed that the captain deserved it wrought on three women by one boorish,
and that justice was done, but of course the unthinking man, who never actually appears
C Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:06 Page 49

CAMPBELL, Ken 49

in the play. The women tell their tales in inter- and Andy Andrews), Skungpoonery (1975),
weaving monologues: Jodie watches as the School For Clowns (1975), Illuminatus
man bullies to death her simple-minded (1977), Deeds (1978, with HOWARD
childhood friend. Ruby becomes pregnant BRENTON , DAVID HARE , TREVOR GRIFFITHS ),
and then is deserted by him, and Lynette is The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy (1979),
trapped in a violent marriage with him. A The Third Policeman (1980), War with the
loose narrative that ranges widely over place Newts (1981), Recollections of a Furtive Nudist
and time dovetails to a thriller-like conclusion (1988), Pigspurt (1992), Jamais Vu (1993),
that is devastating and yet poignantly opti- Mystery Bruises (1994), Choice Chunks
mistic as the three women come together for (1996), Theatre Stories (1997), Violin Time
mutual support. His writing has a lightness (1997), Makbed (1998), History of Comedy
and sureness of touch, an emotional honesty Part One (2000), If I Ruled the National
that is tender and lyrical but also encompasses Theatre (2001), Children of Bisu (2002)
cruelty and suffering, and does not shy away
from difficult subjects. For the National Campbell’s directorial debut – organising the
Student Drama Company he wrote and shallow end for the Summer Water Show at
directed The Moon’s the Madonna, about child Bournemouth Baths – heralded a brilliant
abuse, which was short-listed for the career as Britain’s champion of anarchic fun.
Independent Theatre Award, and Strugglers, Ken Campbell’s Roadshow toured to bars and
set in a special school, which won the Sunday theatres throughout Britain with a uniquely
Times Award. In Strugglers, a seemingly eccentric entertainment of staggering inven-
meandering plot portraying the day-to-day tiveness coupled with red-noses and ferret-
concerns of a group of teenagers just about to down-the-trousers interludes. Gleefully icon-
leave school builds in complexity and momen- oclastic, Campbell recognised no boundaries,
tum as the Real World encroaches bringing taking on the challenge of the Illuminatus
with it heartbreak, disillusionment, failure and books, triumphantly portraying Howard the
even rape. The Glee Club, set in 1962 talking dolphin as an operatic tenor, and
Doncaster, charts the challenges posed to an adapting Flann O’Brien and Douglas Adams
older generation of the working class by a new for the stage. In War with the Newts the hilar-
generation, new music, homosexuality, and ity included a newt family called Olivia Newt,
the breakdown of the old mining communi- and John. In Michael Coveney’s words,
ties in the face of new economic realities. Campbell is ‘a master of the ebulliently child-
ish caper’ who reaches for any and every the-
TRY THESE: atrical device without regard to consistency or
DUNN ’s Steaming, GEMS ’ Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi, convention, demanding that the audience
Tony Roper’s The Steamie shows women sup- keep up with the crazed inventiveness on the
porting each other under crisis; for offstage pres- stage. His one-man shows continued to
ences BECKETT ’s Waiting for Godot; Helen enliven the theatrical scene throughout the
Cooper’s Mrs Vershinin gave flesh to the offstage 1990s and he even appeared in YASMINA
wife of CHEKHOV’ s Three Sisters; for groups of REZA ’s Art. Makbed is a pidgin version of
young people, BENT ’s Bad Company BOND ’s SHAKESPEARE ’s Macbeth.
Saved; POWNALL for plays centred on music.
TRY THESE:
Rose English, IONESCO , JARRY , SIMPSON
CAMPBELL, Ken [1941 – ] and SNOO WILSON share something of
British director, dramatist and actor Campbell’s anarchic surreal inventiveness;
STOPPARD for another version of Macbeth;
PLAYS INCLUDE:
CASDAGLI , DAVID HOLMAN LAVERY ,
Old King Cole (1969), Jack Shepherd (1969,
SHEPPHARD , DAVID WOOD , Stephen Wyatt
also known as Anything You Say Will Be
are other British dramatists who have written for
Twisted), Bendigo (1974, with Dave Hill and
children.
Andy Andrews), The Great Caper (1974),
Walking Like Geoffrey (1975; with Dave Hill
C Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:06 Page 50

50 CAPEK, Karel
CAPEK, Karel [1890 – 1938] TRY THESE:
Czech novelist and dramatist EDGAR , GALSWORTHY and SHAW for pre-
sentations of industrial relations; for animal fables,
PLAYS INCLUDE:
AUDEN ’s On the Frontier, BERKOFF ’s adaptation
The Robber (1920), R.U.R. (1921), The White
of Kafka’s Metamorphosis, TERRY JOHNSON ’s
Plague (1937), The Power and the Glory
(1937), The Mother (1938); and with his
Cries from the Mammal House, TOM MCGRATH ’s
brother Josef, The Insect Play (1922), The
Animal, adaptations of George Orwell’s Animal
Makropoulus Secret (1922), Adam with
Farm; BENNETT ’s Kafka’s Dick for a similar use of
disturbing and fabulous metaphor.
Creator (1927)
A socialist and pacifist, Capek’s second play
R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) gave the CARR, Marina [1946 – ]
world the word ‘robot’ and offered a protest Irish dramatist
against the dehumanising elements of mecha-
PLAYS INCLUDE:
nisation and industrial capitalism. Its final
Low in the Dark (1989), Deer’s Surrender
moments, when two advanced robots (an-
(1990), Ullaloo (1991), This Love Thing
droids as we would now call them) have emo-
(1991), The Mai (1994), Portia Coughlan
tions of love and sacrifice, with the suggestion
(1995), By the Bog of Cats (1998), On
that humans have a second chance in this new
Rafferty’s Hill (2000), Ariel (2002)
Adam and Eve, have been frequently copied,
although Czechs consider Capek’s last anti- Carr has established herself as major voice in
fascist plays his best. The Mother, produced both Irish and British theatre with a sequence
only months before Hitler marched into of very dark plays in which there are recurring
Czechoslovakia, shows a small nation invaded themes of families trapped in self-destructive
by a fascist state, provoking civil war. The patterns of behaviour across the generations,
mother, already a soldier’s widow, has a pilot absent family members casting shadows over
son killed in an air crash, two other sons – one the present, the revelation of past horrors,
fascist, one communist – die in a feud, and incest, deaths foreshadowed or enacted out of
she sees her last son, an anti-violence poet, go narrative sequence. The Irish Midlands cast a
off to fight. Capek’s love of freedom was in the bleak shadow over plays that are haunted,
end stronger than his pacifism but he died sometimes literally so, by the ghosts of the
soon after, three months before his brother dead but also by myths both familial and
was taken off to Belsen by the Nazis. The drawn from classical, Christian and Irish
White Plague has been staged in the USA as a legend. For example, The Merchant of Venice
response to the AIDS epidemic. provides Portia Coughlan with her first name,
the river she lives by and her suitors, but part
The Insect Play of her husband Raphael’s attraction is that
John Gielgud, who played the Chief Butterfly like her dead twin Gabriel he has the name of
in the British premiere, declared this was a an archangel, while Carr herself has said that
part almost certain to ruin the reputation of the plot of By the Bog of Cats is ‘completely
an actor, but Capek’s expressionist vision of Medea’.
human greed, violence and self-interest pre- Although Carr has had some difficulties
sented through parallel behaviour in the with naturalistic reservations, particularly in
insect world can still be disturbingly effective. respect of On Rafferty’s Hill and Ariel, and
When the insects’ physical characteristics are there has been some unease, given historical
used to highlight their human counterparts, representations of the Irish on stage, about
the play has the harsh reality of a Steve Bell the grotesque picture she paints of an intro-
cartoon. The presentation of this parallel verted rural society, for most audiences and
world and its tramp observer – the only critics there is a mythic power in her work
human character – has precursors in fabulists that outweighs its tendency to melodramatic
from Aesop to Swift but its bite is closer to theatricality.
that of BRECHT and less easy to sweeten.
C Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:06 Page 51

CASDAGLI, Penny 51

TRY THESE: Little Voice (filmed as Little Voice, 1998) cen-


Carr has expressed her admiration for tres on the shy teenager with a superb singing
CHEKHOV , IBSEN , O’NEILL and TENNESSEE voice (played by Jane Horrocks), her relation-
WILLIAMS ; EURIPIDES for Medea; incest links ship with her mother and the exploitative the-
Portia Coughlan to the Oedipus story, as treated atrical agent who sees her as a meal ticket. I
by SOPHOCLES (Portia’s husband’s limp relates Licked a Slag’s Deodorant returns to the
him to other Oedipal figures like Stanley in underclass with its addict-prostitute and her
PINTER ’s Birthday Party; SYNGE (particularly client adrift in an uncaring world, while Hard
Riders to the Sea for tales of the death of fisher- Fruit explores male bodybuilding.
men to compare with The Mai); YEATS for
dramas of Irish myth. TRY THESE:
HEGGIE ’s A Wholly Healthy Glasgow and
SYNGE ’s Playboy of the Western World for bold-
CARTWRIGHT, Jim [1958 – ] ness of dialect; DYLAN THOMAS ’s Under Milk
British dramatist Wood, MCCAFFERTY ’s Scenes from the Big Picture,
WILDER ’s Our Town for a specific sense of place;
PLAYS INCLUDE:
OSBORNE ’s Look Back in Anger and The
Road (1986), Bed (1989), Two (1990), The
Rise and Fall of Little Voice (1992), I Licked a
Entertainer for 1950s national vitriol; for more
views of Thatcher’s Britain, ALRAWI ,
Slag’s Deodorant (1996), Hard Fruit (2000)
CHURCHILL , HARE , HOLBOROUGH , LUCIE ;
Bolton-born Cartwright’s first play, Road, GEMS ’ Piaf for exploited singers; Manfred
called the most exciting play of the decade in Karge’s The Conquest of the South Pole for
Britain, owed much to Simon Curtis’s clever unemployment.
promenade production at the Royal Court
Upstairs in 1986. Constructed round a series
of vignettes, Cartwright’s raw, grim account CASDAGLI, Penny [1948 – ]
of unemployment in Thatcher’s Britain, seen British dramatist (also known as Maro Green)
through the eyes of its narrator Scully and the
PLAYS INCLUDE:
inhabitants of a Lancashire street, certainly
Wolfchildren (1980), This Way or That? (1982),
signalled the arrival of an angry new voice,
The Green Ginger Smuggler (1984), Thumbs
albeit one capable of capturing great tender-
Up! (1985), More (1985, with Caroline
ness. The play became a multiple award
Griffin), The Memorial Gardens (1987, with
winner, although its exuberant use of
Caroline Griffin), Pardon, Mr Punch! (1987),
language masked what some felt was its form-
The Beggar in the Palace (1988, with Caroline
lessness. Jim Hiley in the Listener worried that
Griffin). Mortal (1990, with Caroline Griffin),
there was barely a hint of dignity or sense of
Aesop’s the Fable Man (1994)
resistance in the characters, and Ros Asquith
in the Observer noted that in this ‘Under Milk Casdagli’s pioneering work has demonstrated
Wood for the Great Unemployed, men talk – sometimes to an initially sceptical world –
ideas, women only sex’. Recent revivals have ways both of increasing access to young
tended to confirm their judgements. people’s theatre and of gaining from the
If echoes of Dylan Thomas ran through diversity that entails. While at the Unicorn
his first play, his second, Bed, with its stream- Theatre she first addressed the question of
of-consciousness monologues about sleep drama that could cater for deaf as well as
and dreams and its surrealistic talking head, hearing children, developing work that intro-
found itself likened to BECKETT (such refer- duced sign language in a way that made it
ences would presumably be denied by integral rather than a distracting extra. Her
Cartwright who claimed at the time he’d only Pardon, Mr Punch!, applauded by the Times
ever read four books in his life). In Two Educational Supplement as ‘a marvellously
Cartwright reverts to a series of working-class jolly play’, won the British Theatre
cameos enacted by a pub owner and his wife Association’s Drama Magazine award for
in marital difficulties. The Rise and Fall of young people’s theatre in 1988. Subsequently
C Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:06 Page 52

52 CHAMBERS, Jane
Casdagli drew multilingualism into her plays, FIERSTEIN, LANFORD WILSON’s Burn This; Jill
particularly those done under the aegis of the Posener’s Any Woman Can for lesbian coming out;
Neti-Neti Theatre Company, started by her Split Britches for lesbian performance.
and Caroline Griffin in 1987. At its best, the
richly layered effect of this acts as a strong
symbol for the imaginative potential of a CHAPMAN, George [c. 1560 – 1634]
multicultural society. English dramatist and poet
Her plays with Caroline Griffin have
PLAYS INCLUDE:
proved equally innovative – More, a highly
Monsieur D’Olive (1604), Bussy D’Ambois
physical piece of theatre, looked at the hidden
(1604), Eastward Ho! (1605, with JONSON
disabilities of agoraphobia and anorexia, The
and MARSTON ), The Widow’s Tears (pre-
Memorial Gardens at child abuse. The Beggar
1609), The Revenge of Bussy D’Ambois
in the Palace rewrote the Odyssey from a
(c. 1610), The Wars of Caesar and Pompey
feminist viewpoint.
(c. 1613)
TRY THESE: Chapman’s densely philosophical and erudite
Graeae as a company concerned with disabilities; approach to writing may go some way to
CAMPBELL , DAVID HOLMAN LAVERY , explain the discrepancy between his academic
ADRIAN MITCHELL , SHEPPHARD , DAVID (traditionally high) and theatrical (virtually
WOOD , Stephen Wyatt are other British drama- non-existent) reputations. A friend of and
tists who have written for children. collaborator with BEN JONSON , Chapman
pursued the career of a professional writer
with sufficient assiduity to serve a prison term
CHAMBERS, Jane [1937 – 83] for overstepping the mark in his criticism of
American playwright the Scots and James VI and I in Eastward Ho!,
which the RSC revived in 2002. The revival
PLAYS INCLUDE:
was greeted with some enthusiasm for its
The Marvelous Metropolis (1957), Christ in a
lively satirical presentation of London life in
Treehouse (1971), Random Violence (1973), A
the early seventeenth century. Bussy
Late Snow (1974), Common Garden Variety
D’Ambois, a revenge tragedy in the familiar
(1976), Late Summer at Bluefish Cove (1980),
Renaissance mode, and its sequel The Revenge
Kudzu (1981), My Blue Heaven (1982), The
of Bussy D’Ambois are proof that the Renais-
Quintessential Image (1983)
sance theatre knew how to cash in on success
Chambers broke new ground in her frank as much as Hollywood does!
writing about homosexual life. Nine months
before her untimely death, she received the TRY THESE:
Fifth Annual Award of the Fund for Human Most Renaissance dramatists used revenge plots
Dignity, given as an acknowledgement of and malcontent figures; SHAKESPEARE ’s Hamlet
those who have made a major contribution to is the most famous example of both, but KYD ’s
public understanding and acceptance of les- The Spanish Tragedy started the vogue for revenge
bians and gays. Chambers never concealed and there are notable examples in FORD ,
her homosexuality and created characters MIDDLETON , TOURNEUR and WEBSTER .
who dealt openly with the issues surrounding
a gay lifestyle. Chambers will be best remem-
bered, however, for A Late Snow and Bluefish CHEKHOV, Anton [1860 – 1904]
Cove among the many plays she wrote on Russian dramatist
homosexual themes.
PLAYS INCLUDE:
On the High Road (1884), Ivanov (1887), The
TRY THESE:
Bear (1888), The Wood Demon (1889), The
For pioneering work on gay themes, Mart Crowley,
Wedding (1890), Platonov (c. 1890, not pro-
The Boys in the Band; for women’s relationships, duced until the 1920s), The Seagull (1896),
CHURCHILL, Top Girls; for homosexual lifestyles,
Uncle Vanya (1899), The Proposal (1899),
C Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:06 Page 53

CHEKHOV, Anton 53

Three Sisters (1901), The Cherry Orchard Chekhov’s plays appear regularly in the
(1904) repertory, though an over-reliance on Stanis-
lavskian naturalism and the misguided per-
Chekhov is a master at depicting groups, ception of Chekhov as a uniformly melan-
charting the nuances of dialogue and charac- choly writer unfortunately persist.
ter with extraordinary sensitivity and sub-
tlety. Many of his plays deal with temporary Three Sisters
communities that are coming to an end; their This is a study of three sisters, locked in a
elegiac qualities seem to foreshadow events in small military town, watching their lives drift
Russia with remarkable prescience. past. The constant refrain of the play is the cry
Born the son of a grocer and the grandson of the youngest sister Irina, ‘Let us go to
of a serf, and brought up in a small port town Moscow’, but as the play progresses, even she,
on the Sea of Azov, he went to the University the youngest and therefore most hopeful,
of Moscow to train as a doctor in 1879. On comes to realise that they will never leave, and
graduation, he practised medicine in Moscow that even if they did reach Moscow, they
and wrote for the St Petersburg Gazette. His would take themselves and all their frustra-
first full-length plays, Ivanov and The Wood tions with them. Each of the sisters suffers the
Demon, were unsuccessful. In 1890 Chekhov frustration of her hopes: Olga, the eldest, has
travelled through Russia and Siberia as a med- given up all hope of children; the most sen-
ical practitioner, the first of many such jour- sual of the sisters, Masha, is trapped in a ster-
neys, in order to assist peasants. He then set- ile marriage and loses the lover who promises
tled on a small estate outside Moscow, where her romance; Irina never achieves her ambi-
he attempted to be an enlightened landlord tion to see Moscow. The men who come
and provided medical care and schooling for within the orbit of the sisters also suffer from
the peasants in the area, experience that is cen- unfulfilled hopes and ambitions: the sisters’
tral to Uncle Vanya and The Cherry Orchard. brother Andrei ends the play married to the
After the failure of the first production of vulgar Natasha; the Doctor has not sustained
The Seagull, Chekhov swore that he would the commitment and conviction with which
never have another play produced. However, he entered medicine; Vershinin, the glam-
Stanislavsky persuaded him to revive The orous commander, has hopes for a ‘beautiful
Seagull. Stanislavsky gave it a very careful pro- life’ in another two centuries. None of the
duction at the Moscow Arts Theatre, employ- characters can achieve contentment, with the
ing his methods of acting and direction, and exception of Andrei’s wife, Natasha, whose
the play was recognised as an important new dreams are only of material comforts. The
drama. Uncle Vanya, a reworking of The Wood play ends with the three sisters standing
Demon, followed The Seagull quite success- alone, their youth and romance leaving with
fully, although Three Sisters was not well the soldiers. Olga reaffirms the importance of
received. In 1904, just as he was beginning to their lives in a final and wistful speech: ‘We
be recognised internationally as a major shall be forgotten – our faces, our voices, even
dramatist after the first production of The how many of us there were. But our sufferings
Cherry Orchard, Chekhov suffered two heart will turn to joy for those who live after us.’
attacks and died in the German spa town of The experience of the audience watching the
Badenweiler. In notebooks of the period of play is such as to reaffirm its slender hopes,
Three Sisters Chekhov wrote: ‘We struggle to the act of watching Three Sisters confirms that
change life so that those who come after us they have indeed not been forgotten.
might be happy, but those who come after us
will say as usual, it was better before, life now TRY THESE:
is worse than it used to be’. Chekhov’s plays Chekhov said ‘IBSEN is my favourite author’ and
stand as powerful statements that attest to the claimed The Wild Duck as his favourite play;
fact that things were never better, and that FRAYN ’s Wild Honey is a version of Platonov;
hope for the future matters more than any- FRIEL has adapted The Cherry Orchard to an Irish
thing. setting and his Afterplay brings together Sonia
C Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:06 Page 54

54 CHILDRESS, Alice
from Uncle Vanya and Andrei from Three Sisters white writers and the difficulties of black
after the Revolution; Michael Picardie’s The Cape actors faced with either playing stereotypes or
Orchard applied it to South Africa, and TREVOR not working. Wedding Band tackles an equally
GRIFFITHS ’ version stressed its politics; his Piano is hot potato with its story of an interracial mar-
partly a reworking of Platonov; MATURA trans- riage in the Deep South in 1915.
ferred Three Sisters to Trinidad in his Trinidad Childress’s current reputation in Britain
Sisters; SHAW claimed Heartbreak House was depends on Nick Kent’s 2000 revival of Wine
Chekhovian; HUNTER was routinely compared in the Wilderness at the Tricycle. Michael
to Chekhov; Helen Cooper’s Mrs Vershinin tells Billington described the play as a variation of
the story of how she came to be the offstage the Pygmalion story in which a painter who is
neurotic in Three Sisters; FRAYN , MAMET and creating a triptych of black womanhood is
LANFORD WILSON have translated/adapted persuaded that ‘real beauty is to be found not
Chekhov’s major plays; BECKETT ’s Waiting for in dead myths but in the rich variety of 1960s
Godot for a play about longed-for transcendence; black America’.
SHAKESPEARE ’s King Lear offers a rather different
group of three sisters; Michael Pennington for a TRY THESE:
Chekhov one-person show; the Manchester Royal PINNOCK ’s Water was commissioned as a
Exchange paired The Seagull with Brad Fraser’s response to Wine in the Wilderness; BALDWIN ,
Cold Meat Party. BARAKA , BULLINS , HANSBERRY ’s A Raisin in
the Sun, for American black experience in the
1950s and 1960s; WOLFE ’s The Colored Museum
CHILDRESS, Alice [1920 – 94] for a satirical history of the attempts to dramatise
American dramatist and novelist the black experience; KHAN-DIN ’s East is East for
a British interracial marriage.
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Florence (1949), Just a Little Simple (1950,
from LANGSTON HUGHES ), Gold Through
CHONG, Ping [1946 – ]
the Trees (1952), Trouble in Mind (1955),
Wedding Band (1966), The World on a Hill
American writer, director and performer
(1968), Young Martin Luther King (1969), WORKS INCLUDE:
String (1969, from Maupassant), Wine in the Fear and Loathing in Gotham (1975),
Wilderness (1969), Mojo (1970), When the Humboldt’s Current (1977), Nuit Blanche
Rattlesnake Sounds (1975), Let’s Hear it for (1981), A.M./A.M. – The Articulated Man
the Queen (1976), Sea Island Song (1977, (1982), Anna into Nightlight (1982), The
reworked as Gullah, 1984), Moms (1987) Games (1983, with Meredith Monk), A Race
(1984), The Angels of Swedenborg (1985),
Childress joined the (amateur) American
Nosferatu (1985), Kindness (1986), Noiresque:
Negro Theatre in 1940, and was its director
The Fallen Angel (1989), Maraya – Acts of
from 1941 to 1952, while earning her living in
Nature in Geological Time (1989), Skin – A
a variety of menial jobs. The ANT staged her
State of Being (1989), 4 a.m. America (1990),
first play, Florence, in which a black mother is
Deshima (1990), Elephant Memories (1990),
reconciled to her daughter’s desire to be an
American Gothic (1992), Undesirable
actress after a bruising encounter with a white
Elements (1993-), Edda: Viking Tales of Lust
actress, and she played a significant part in the
and Revenge (2001), Children of War (2002)
fight for black writers and performers to be
taken seriously in the USA. For example, Gold Chong, a one-time performer with Meredith
Through the Trees is believed to have been the Monk, formed his own Fiji Company in 1975
first play by a black woman to have a profes- ‘to question the syntax of theatre’. His highly
sional production in the USA (Rosemary visual theatre mixes media and metaphor,
Curb) and Trouble in Mind earned her the while cultural traditions and paradigmatic
first OBIE for a black woman. It deals with an experiences permeate the works. His charac-
issue that still remains only too relevant ters, all explorers of one kind or another,
today: the stereotyping of black characters by grapple with geography, history and memory
C Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:06 Page 55

CHRISTIE, Agatha 55

in the context of imperialism and the violence and she sometimes uses them to voice ideas
of the Western world. Human experience is that reveal a strong concern for the problems
played out in haunting images composed of in relationships. As in many of her novels, the
verbal, visual, gestural and sound texts that revelation of ‘who-done-it’ is often not sig-
expose the oppression of ‘the other’. Chong’s nalled in the plot and comes as a surprise.
work is not for all audiences; theatregoers Christie’s detective stories have also been
have been known to stomp out of his per- adapted for the stage by other writers and
formances infuriated by the ambiguities. been made into a number of feature films and
While Chong’s work is undeniably attractive adapted for television. Those featuring her
in physical production, as critic Michael detectives Miss Marple and the Belgian
Feingold once observed ‘you never know what Hercule Poirot have been hugely successful.
he might achieve if he put his mind to creat-
ing a work that communicated more than The Mousetrap
mere effects’. Christie herself thought that ‘It is the sort of
play you can take anyone to. It is not really
TRY THESE: frightening. It is not really horrible. It is not
BOGART, FOREMAN, San Francisco Mime Troupe, really a farce but it has a little bit of all these
Peter Sellars, Robert Wilson, The Wooster Group, for things and perhaps that satisfies a lot of dif-
other figures in the American avant-garde; Laurie ferent people.’ The play enlists many of the
Anderson for multimedia performance; Pina clichés of its genre: a manor house cut off by
Bausch, Martha Clarke as dancers whose work snow drifts but only an hour from London, a
crosses boundaries. solidly realist set with a suspiciously large
number of levels and doors appropriate to the
demands of murder or farce, expository tele-
CHRISTIE, Agatha phone calls and radio broadcasts, and atmos-
(Mary Clarissa) [1890 – 1976] pheric music anticipating the deaths within
British author of detective stories and dramatist the play. A cast of stereotypes to be murdered
or suspected of murder includes the déclassé
PLAYS INCLUDE:
young couple attempting to cope with open-
Black Coffee (1930), Ten Little Niggers (also
ing the manor as a guesthouse, an effete
known as Ten Little Indians, 1943),
young man, a mannish woman, a funny-sinis-
Appointment with Death (1945), Murder on
ter foreigner and the detective whose heroic
the Nile (1945), The Hollow (1951), The
cross-country skiing enables him alone to
Mousetrap (1952), Witness for the Prosecution
reach the isolated house. Harold Hobson
(1953), The Spider’s Web (1954), Towards
described the play as ‘a parable of the social
Zero (with Gerald Verner; 1956), Verdict
outlook of our times’, but it never quite man-
(1958), The Unexpected Guest (1958), Go
ages to bring to the surface the maelstrom of
Back for Murder (1960), The Rule of Three
confused sexual identities, child abuse and
(1962), Fiddlers Three (1971), Akhnaton
debates about the influence of environment
(published 1973)
and heredity on the formation of character
One of the most successful thriller writers of that lurk beneath the generic commonplaces
all time and the author of the longest-running of resolution and disclosure
play ever, The Mousetrap (now past its fiftieth
anniversary), Christie excels at telling a story. TRY THESE:
Though her characters verge upon the stereo- BRECHT ’s Caucasian Chalk Circle for the
typical, they have firm roots in the back- nature/nurture debate; AYCKBOURN for enter-
grounds of the middle-class audiences that prising plot manipulations; PRIESTLEY ’s An
have flocked to see her plays, giving them Inspector Calls for the use of a detective plot to
opportunities to identify with the characters make a moral point; STOPPARD ’s The Real
and vicariously enjoy the excitement of Inspector Hound for a parody of the genre;
involvement with murder and mayhem. ANTHONY SHAFFER ’s Sleuth is more psychologi-
However, her characters are not mere ciphers cally oriented; Ira Levin’s Deathtrap; DORFMAN ’s
C Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:06 Page 56

56 CHURCHILL, Caryl
Death and the Maiden for a superb psychological work was particularly associated with treat-
thriller concerned with the abuse of human ments of sexual politics, especially in Cloud
rights; Stephen Mallatratt’s The Woman in Black, Nine (in which the links between patriarchy
adapted from Susan Hill’s novel, a spine-tingling and colonisation are mercilessly and wittily
ghost story. exposed) and Top Girls, a study of a ‘success-
ful’ career woman. She has always been keenly
aware of the socio-political dimension of
CHURCHILL, Caryl [1938 – ] oppression, which affects men as well as
British dramatist women, as in Fen, her study of the quiet
horrors of rural life (notable for a stunning
PLAYS INCLUDE:
central performance from Jennie Stoller), and
Owners (1972), Objections to Sex and
in the earlier urban landscape of Owners.
Violence (1975), Light Shining in
Churchill uses time shifts, uneven ageing (the
Buckinghamshire (1976), Vinegar Tom
characters in Cloud Nine are twenty-five years
(1976), Cloud Nine (1979), Three More
older in part two than they were in part one,
Sleepless Nights (1980), Top Girls (1982), Fen
but a hundred years have passed), cross-race
(1983), Softcops (1984), A Mouthful of Birds
and cross-gender casting, doubling, pastiche
(1986, with DAVID LAN ) Serious Money
Victorian light verse and also rhyming
(1987), Icecream (1989), Hot Fudge (1990),
couplets, as part of a strategy of upsetting and
Mad Forest (1990), Lives of the Great
destabilising conventional assumptions about
Poisoners (1991, with Orlando Gough and
both drama and life itself. Some people
Ian Spink), The Skriker (1994), Thyestes
interpreted Top Girls as a hymn in praise of its
(1994, from SENECA ), Hotel (1997), This is
central character, and the runaway success in
a Chair (1997), Far Away (2000), A Number
Britain of her exposé of the financial markets,
(2002)
Serious Money, owed much to its popularity
Churchill is one of Britain’s outstanding with the very people it satirised, who flocked
dramatists, with a series of vibrant and inven- to see it both at the Royal Court and in the
tive plays over thirty years. Her recent work West End. Mad Forest is a fine treatment of
has explored issues of the collapse of tradi- Romania after the overthrow of Ceausescu,
tional structures and ecological meltdown researched in Romania with a group of
(The Skriker and Far Away) and human students from the Central School of Speech
cloning (A Number), characterised by a haunt- and Drama.
ing, elliptical allusive poetic language that
suggest a writer at the height of her powers. Top Girls
After writing extensively for radio, which The play begins with a gathering of women
is traditionally more accommodating to from different periods and cultures to cele-
female writers, and juggling the demands of brate the promotion of Marlene, the central
her husband’s career and of childcare, character, within the Top Girls employment
Churchill moved into theatre in the early agency. The choice of relatively unfamiliar
1970s, learning different ways of working historical characters reminds us of the way
collectively as a result of her ventures with that women’s histories have been submerged
Monstrous Regiment and particularly Joint by traditional male-dominated approaches to
Stock. Inevitably, Churchill tackled many of history. It also brings us into a critical rela-
the fashionable themes of British political and tionship with Marlene’s story from the very
feminist theatre in the 1970s, including beginning, forcing us to supply many of the
witches (Vinegar Tom), terrorism (Objections connections between the first scene and the
to Sex and Violence), and seventeenth-century more ‘normal’ narrative that follows in which
revolutionary sects (Light Shining in Bucking- the women who played party guests reappear
hamshire), as well as more unusual topics as contemporary women. In the first scene
such as the nature of ideology and repression Marlene is apparently emancipated from the
in the all-male Softcops, inspired by a reading traps and entanglements of family and
of the French theorist Michel Foucault. Her children that have constrained the others, but
C Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp
2/4/07
16:06
Page 57

CHURCHILL, Caryl
57

Far Away by Caryl Churchill, directed by Stephen Daldry, Royal Court Theatre, 2000. (Colin Willoughby/ArenaPAL)
C Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:06 Page 58

58 CIXOUS, Hélène
much of the rest of the play is concerned with Born in Algeria, Cixous is one of the most
destabilising this privileged position by trap- important French feminist theorists. Since
ping audiences into semi-agreement with her 1967 she has also published novels, short
and then encouraging them to see her puta- stories and essays, and she made a tentative
tive success in a far wider context in which she entry into playwriting in 1976, when Simone
is just as much a victim of the system. The Benmussa produced her Portrait de Dora at
play is both enormously funny and chilling in the Théâtre d’Orsay. After an experiment with
its brilliantly observed presentations of the an opera libretto (Le Nom d’Édipe, Avignon
everyday contradictions of life. Churchill, like Festival 1978) she had some success with La
BRECHT , suggests that what we need is a new Prise de l’Éco1e de Madhubaï at the Petit
way of seeing if we are to understand and Odéon in 1983, where most of the set in the
confront the pressures the characters in Top tiny theatre was taken up with a banyan tree;
Girls fail to grasp. Although it can be seen as a most of the play was a discussion on social
surgically precise anatomy of the Thatcher responsibility and individual rights between a
years, the Background/Oxford Stage Company female bandit and a friendly prime minister
production seen in the West End in 2002 with an umbrella. Since then, Cixous has been
revealed it had lost none of its power. engaged in a rewarding partnership with
Ariane Mnouchkine and the Théâtre du
TRY THESE: Soleil, for whom and with whom she has
DANIELS ’ Byrthrite is another play about seven- researched and written two substantial and
teenth-century women; BOND ’s mixture of ‘his- successful historical plays, one on the history
torical’ and invented characters in Early Morning of Cambodia and one on the partition of
ran into some of the same problems with critics British India.
as Top Girls; among other contemporary women
dramatists are DANIELS , GEMS , HORSFIELD , TRY THESE:
KEATLEY , LAVERY , LOCHHEAD , DURAS , with whom she seems to have very
MACDONALD , MCINTYRE , PINNOCK , RAIF , little in common, but they were both born in
WERTENBAKER ; one of the great poisoners is French colonies and they have both written
Medea, also the subject of plays by EURIPIDES about what was formerly French Indo-China;
and SENECA . SPALDING GRAY ’s Swimming to Cambodia and
EDGAR ’s Destiny for Cambodia and India;
TERRY JOHNSON ’s Hysteria for another sceptical
CIXOUS, Hélène [1937 – ] look at Freud; HAMPTON ’s The Talking Cure for
French feminist, novelist and dramatist Freud and Jung, WRIGHT ’s Mrs Klein for Melanie
Klein.
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Portrait de Dora (1976, Portrait of Dora), La
Prise de l’École de Madhubaï (1983, The
Capture of the Madhubaï School), L’Histoire
CLARK, Brian [1932 – ]
Terrible Mais Inachevée de Norodom
British dramatist
Sihanouk, Roi du Cambodge (1985, The PLAYS INCLUDE:
Terrible But Unfinished Story of Norodom Lay By (1971, with TREVOR GRIFFITHS ,
Sihanouk, King of Cambodia), L’Indiade DAVID HARE , STEPHEN POLIAKOFF , Hugh
(1987, The Indiad), La Nuit Miraculeuse Stoddart, SNOO WILSON ), England’s Ireland
(1989, with Ariane Mnouchkine), On ne part (1972, with Tony Bicât, DAVID EDGAR ,
pas, on ne revient pas (1991), L’Histoire Francis Fuchs, DAVID HARE , SNOO
(qu’on ne connaîtra jamais) (1994), Voile WILSON ), Truth or Dare (1972), Campion’s
Noire Voile Blanche (1994, Black Sail White Interview (1976), Whose Life Is It Anyway
Sail), La Ville parjure ou le réédes Erinyes (1978), Post Mortem (1978), Can You Hear
(1994) Me at the Back (1979), Switching in the
Afternoon; or, As the Screw Turns (1980), The
Petition (1986)
C Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:06 Page 59

CLIFFORD, John 59

Originally a collaborator with younger left- CLIFFORD, John [1950 – ]


wing dramatists such as DAVID HARE on English-born dramatist now working in Scotland
plays for the anti-establishment Portable
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Theatre Company, Clark did not pursue con-
How Like an Angel (1983), Losing Venice
sciously political theatre. The 1972 television
(1985), Lucy’s Play (1986), Playing with Fire
version of his best-known play, Whose Life Is
(1987), Ines de Castro (1989), The Girl Who
It Anyway, was written in the same period and
Fell to Earth (1991), Light in the Village
is more typical. In it an accident victim, paral-
(1991), What’s in a Name (1992), Dreaming
ysed from the neck down, fights for the right
(1994), War in America (1996)
to die. It provides the opportunity for a virtu-
oso central performance, but little opportu- Clifford has a sophisticated academic back-
nity for non-verbal theatre. Clark not only ground, a degree in Arabic and Spanish
argues his case but also writes elegantly and affording him the cadences and philosophies
entertainingly, with an excellent feel for the of two cultures strikingly different from our
mores and preoccupations of the English own. His stylish, vigorous translations of
middle class. The professional and domestic CALDERÓN , LORCA and Tirso de Molina
problems of the mid-life male are explored in match the Hispanic influences, both thematic
Can You Hear Me at the Back and in the 1979 and stylistic, in his original plays. For
British television series Telford’s Change, both instance, the events used in Ines de Castro
of which provide sensitive portraits that will derive from Portuguese legends about the
assure the troubled professional that he doomed love affair between Pedro, heir to the
(rather than she, although Mary Tyler Moore throne, and a woman, Ines, who is from an
took the lead in Whose Life on Broadway) is enemy land. The plot is reminiscent of a
not alone – but do not look to Clark for the Jacobean revenge tragedy. The writing melds
political critique his earliest work might seem the stateliness of Calderón, the poetic escape
to promise. In The Petition Clark is persuasive of Lorca, the gusto of medieval morality, and
if predictable in his mainstream treatment of something which is Clifford’s own, the heart-
the anti-nuclear issue through discussions felt anger of the very gentle.
between a general and his quintessentially
‘decent’ middle-class wife, but the impact is Losing Venice
fatally undermined by the melodramatic Since winning a Fringe First award in 1985,
device of her political consciousness being Losing Venice has been performed worldwide.
made coincidental with the revelation that she It travels well because it depends on one sim-
is dying of cancer. ple, inspired notion: encourage adults to use
their imagination with the same limitless
TRY THESE: scope enjoyed in childhood. And at one level,
For hospital, illness, and disability plays of various the games set in motion are not dissimilar – a
kinds see KEMPINSKI ’s Duet for One, MEDOFF ’s Duke decides to go to war because that is what
Children of a Lesser God, NICHOLS ’ The National Dukes do, just as he gets married because that
Health, PAGE ’s Tissue, POMERANCE ’s The is also what Dukes do. And Dukes do these
Elephant Man, YOUNG ’s Crystal Clear, Graeae things because they are mimicking other
Theatre Company; VAN ITALLIE ’s The Traveller Dukes, just like children mimic grown-ups.
creates a language to describe aphasia; So off they go, the Duke, his Poet, his Servant,
BECKETT ’s Happy Days offers another version of to retrieve Venice (which wasn’t actually
immobility; for anti-nuclear issues see BARKER ’s theirs, but shouldn’t be taken over by anyone
The Passion, BOLT ’s The Tiger and the Horse, else) and they have adventures and catastro-
BOND ’s War Plays, BRENTON ’s The Genius, phes – without benefit of props, or fancy loca-
DANIELS ’ The Devil’s Gateway, DARKE ’s The tions, but all through conjuring with words
Body, EDGAR ’s Maydays. and by acting as if such things are so – and
eventually they come home, heroes – by their
own account anyway. Meanwhile, home has
crumbled away, poverty and disorder reign.
C Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:06 Page 60

60 CLEUGH, Grae
And the women who’ve struggled through COCTEAU, Jean [1889 – 1963]
these domestic battles aren’t all that French avant-garde poet, filmmaker and drama-
impressed with this macho bluster and hollow tist
victory. It is a delicious, sly, droll play which
PLAYS INCLUDE:
astutely deflates national and male chauvin-
Les Mariés de la Tour Eiffel (1924, The
ism, warmongering (an exercise in cosmetic
Wedding on the Eiffel Tower), Orphée (1927),
politicking usually), scrutinises the actual
Antigone (1928), La Voix Humaine (1930,
usefulness of the poet within society, cele-
The Human Voice), La Machine Infernale
brates female common sense and loving, and
(1934, The Infernal Machine), Les Chevaliers
does so with wit and panache.
de la Table Ronde (1937, The Knights of the
Round Table), Les Parents Terribles (1938, The
TRY THESE:
Terrible Parents), L’Aigle a Deux Têtes (1946,
Mario Vargas Llosa’s Kathy and the
The Eagle Has Two Heads)
Hippopotamus for an exploration of escapism/
imagination and human relationships; DE VEGA , Cocteau was a permanent avant-gardist in the
CORNEILLE ’s Le Cid for the corrosive effects of 1920s and 1930s (or, as his enemies put it, the
honour and familial duty; honour and compro- ultimate in trendy chic); his talents included
mise are poignantly depicted in C. P. TAYLOR ’s poetry, drawing, film- and playmaking, and
Good; BARKER is adept at using history to point he had a considerable vogue in England after
up cogent moral and social issues of our time. World War II, but his reputation dipped
before reviving in the 1980s with London
productions of Orphée, The Infernal Machine
CLEUGH, Grae [1968 – ] (Cocteau’s variations on the Oedipus story),
British dramatist and the short, bravura piece for solo actress
and telephone, The Human Voice.
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Fucking Games (2001)
TRY THESE:
Cleugh won the Olivier Award for Most ANOUILH , GIRAUDOUX and SARTRE for
Promising Playwright on the strength of his using modernised Greek plays and legends to
debut full-length play presented at the Royal comment on contemporary French affairs;
Court Theatre Upstairs. Terrence treats his BERKOFF , DUFFY , WERTENBAKER for some
long-term partner Jonah with disdain and has British parallels.
a secret lover who arrives with his boyfriend
who is actually more interested in a tradi-
tional monogamous relationship. As the COLLINS, Barry [1941 – ]
play’s title suggests, it follows in the MARK British dramatist
RAVENHILL tradition of explicit homosexual
PLAYS INCLUDE:
sex but it concentrates more on the domestic
And Was Jerusalem Builded Here (1972),
power games of a long-established couple
Beauty and the Beast (1973), Judgement
than on wider issues.
(1974), The Strongest Man in the World
(1978), Toads (1979), The Ice Chimney
TRY THESE:
(1980), Atonement (1987)
ALBEE ’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, ELYOT ’s
My Night with Reg, LEIGH ’s Abigail’s Party for Collins is best known for his dramatic mono-
domestic power struggles. logue Judgement – a horrific tale of cannibal-
ism based on a real wartime incident when
seven Russian soldiers were left for sixty days
without food, recounted by one of the two
survivors. Described by Steve Grant as having
the ‘hypnotic rhetoric of a John Donne
sermon, the moral intensity of a Conrad
novel and finely observed lyric detail of a
C Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:06 Page 61

COOKE, Trish 61

Louis MacNeice poem’, Collins’ two-and-a- and heiresses and mistresses; comic intrigues
half-hour tour de force has provoked magnif- and revenges; age and youth and money and
icent performances from such interpreters as lack of it. Yet within this conventional mate-
Peter O’Toole, Colin Blakely and Ben rial, which is beautifully organised and wittily
Kingsley. A much-travelled piece, this cool, presented, the most interesting feature is
clinical investigation into the moral and Congreve’s treatment of the romantic figures:
philosophical laws of human degradation, in The Double-Dealer, Love for Love, and The
survival and the nature of guilt and sanity Way of the World there are men and women
conjures with themes Collins has continued to who move towards a marriage based on
readdress, though perhaps nowhere else with mutual respect rather than money. The atti-
so much control. tude to marriage is wary but ultimately posi-
tive, as in the so-called ‘proviso scene’ in The
TRY THESE: Way of the World where Millamant and
WERTENBAKER ’s The Grace of Mary Traverse for Mirabell lay down the ground rules of their
eighteenth-century riots to compare with the marriage even as far as discussing how to
Luddite riots in And Was Jerusalem Builded Here; bring up their children!
compare images of destructive love in Atonement
with STRINDBERG ’s Creditors, SHEPARD ’s Fool TRY THESE:
for Love, STRAUSS ’s The Tourist Guide and the Other Restoration comic writers, such as BEHN,
sterility of a marriage in RUDKIN ’s Ashes; for ETHEREGE and WYCHERLEY; other writers of
mountain-climbing plays to compare with The Ice comedy of manners, such as PHILIP BARRY,
Chimney, K2 by Patrick Meyers and AUDEN and COWARD, GOLDSMITH, LUCIE, MOLIÈRE,
ISHERWOOD ’s The Ascent of F6; for sporting SHERIDAN, WILDE; BOND’s Restoration uses
champions GODBER , PAGE ’s Golden Girls, conventions and themes derived from the prac-
STOREY ; for cannibalism, SHAKESPEARE ’s Titus tice of Restoration writers to make modern points.
Andronicus.
COOKE, Trish [1963 – ]
CONGREVE, William [1670 – 1729] British dramatist
English dramatist PLAYS INCLUDE:
PLAYS INCLUDE: Shoppin People (1989), Running Dream
The Old Bachelor (1693), The Double-Dealer (1989), Back Street Mammy (1989)
(1693), Love for Love (1695), The Mourning
Cooke was born in Bradford of Dominican
Bride (1697), The Way of the World (1700)
parents. She later became an actress, televi-
English-born and Irish-educated, Congreve sion presenter, prize-winning children’s book
lived a fashionable life (his mistresses writer and an EastEnders script writer. Running
included the actress Anne Bracegirdle and the Dream is about the interaction between three
Duchess of Marlborough), indulged in some sisters after their mother leaves to go to
unsuccessful theatrical management, and England. Back Street Mammy audaciously
wrote three comedies that are still staged. weaves poetic and naturalistic forms in its
Although the satirical edge of Congreve’s exploration of the consequences of a young
work is less sharp than WYCHERLEY ’s, public woman’s finding herself pregnant after a one-
taste had changed sufficiently to make both night stand. Some reviewers dismissed her
The Double-Dealer and The Way of the World experimentation with nightmarish nursery
more successful with their later audiences rhymes, wordplay and dialogue as ‘preten-
than they originally were. The Mourning Bride tious’, but others found the play perceptive,
is a tragedy but the other plays deal with the warm-hearted and joyous. Juggling with ideas
usual characters and issues of the period’s about choices, independence, and genera-
comedy: arranged marriages and pretended tional conflicts, what could have been a
marriages; the conflict between country and routine drama of adolescence became in
town values; lust and romance; rakes and fops Cooke’s hands a vigorous and imaginative
C Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:06 Page 62

62 COONEY, Ray
expression of hope profoundly on the side of ing. The improbabilities in Cooney’s plots are
life, if sceptical of marriage. made up for by a repeated, accelerating flurry
of old jokes, and trousers choreographed to
TRY THESE: drop at just the right time. Cooney is a master
PINNOCK has written about young black women of Brian Rix/Whitehall theatre farce, a genre
and their experiences; LOCHHEAD for a woman- abhorred by theatre sophisticates but ever
centred Scottish writer; ELLIS, MOFFATT, popular with audiences who want nothing
ZEPHANIAH for contemporary black male writers; more than to be entertained, their prejudices
MACDONALD for adolescent stirrings. firmly intact. He is adept at catching contem-
porary issues, from defecting Russian ballet
dancers (Chase Me Comrade) and James
COONEY, Ray [1932 – ] Bond-style Arab villainy (Bang Bang Beirut),
British dramatist to political sleaze (Out of Order) and internet
dating (Caught in the Net, a sequel to Run for
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Your Wife) but his characters’ attitudes to
One for the Pot (1961, with Tony Hilton),
homosexuality could scarcely be described as
Chase Me Comrade (1964), Charlie Girl
progressive.
(1965, with Hugh and Margaret Williams),
My Giddy Aunt (1967, with John Chapman),
TRY THESE:
Bang Bang Beirut, or, Stand by Your Bedouin
AYCKBOURN , DE FILIPPO , FRAYN’S Noises Off,
(1966, with Tony Hilton) Not Now, Darling
TRAVERS , CHURCHILL’ s Cloud Nine for different
(1967, with John Chapman), Move Over, Mrs
approaches to farce; STOPPARD ’s Dirty Linen for
Markham (1968, with John Chapman), Why
political sleaze; the eighteenth-century Irish play-
Not Stay for Breakfast (1970, with Gene
wright Arthur Murphy’s All in the Wrong is a classic
Stone), Come Back to My Place (1973, with
example of misunderstandings carried to the
John Chapman), There Goes the Bride (1974,
limit.
with John Chapman), Two Into One (1981),
Run for Your Wife (1983), Wife Begins at
Forty (1985, with Arne Sultan and Earl
CORNEILLE, Pierre [1606 – 84]
Barrett), It Runs in the Family (1987), Out of
Order (1990), Funny Money (1995), Caught
French dramatist
in the Net (2001) PLAYS INCLUDE:
Mélite (1629), Clitandre (1631), L’Illusion
Cooney appeared in the farces Dry Rot and
Comique (1636, The Illusion or The Comic
Simple Spymen, (both written by John
Illusion), Le Cid (1636 – 7, The Cid), Horace
Chapman) for Brian Rix’s Whitehall Theatre
(1640), Cinna (1640), Polyeucte (1641),
Company. He then wrote for them his first
Rodugune (1644 – 5), Oedipe (Oedipus,
play, One for the Pot (1961, with Tony Hilton),
1659), Tite et Bérénice (1670, Titus and
a classic farce with Brian Rix playing four
Berenice), Suréna (1674)
brothers, and later Chase Me, Comrade
(1964). After other successful farces (all in the Corneille was a lawyer from Rouen; his early
British line of cheerful suggestive sex rather plays were comedies or tragicomedies, but
than the manic and more explicit style of after the success of The Cid he settled down to
 FEYDEAU or  ORTON ,) he formed the write heroic tragedies, somewhat in the
Theatre of Comedy Company in 1983 and put Spanish manner, with strong-willed heroes
on his own Run For Your Wife. and heroines in impossible situations that
Cooney takes a perfectly mundane situa- they cope with whatever the cost. He suffered
tion and swiftly transforms it by a series of from being the first major French dramatist
misunderstandings into a collision of circum- to try to keep the neo-Aristotelian rules, the
stances and the threat of ultimate disaster for three unities of time, place and action. Unlike
our hero. In Run for Your Wife, for instance, a Racine, he usually had too much plot for the
bigamous husband does his frantic best to requisite twenty-four hours, and was much
keep his two wives from a catastrophic meet- discouraged by the resulting criticism.
C Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:06 Page 63

CORTHRON, Kia 63

The Illusion has a magician, a play within a TRY THESE:


play within a play, and characters who appear BURKE ’s Gagarin Way and Ena Lamont Stewart’s
to die, and are then revealed as a company of Men Should Weep for other examples of Scottish
actors sharing out the takings, but The Cid is communities under strain; SYNGE ’s Riders to the
more typical. It is the archetypal ‘Love against Sea for the impact of sons’ deaths on a mother in
Honour’ play. Rodrigue (the Cid) loves a peasant community; GALSWORTHY ’s Strife for
Chimène, but has to kill her father in a duel a presentation of strikes from within a more
because the latter has insulted his established theatre; EDGAR ’s That Summer and
(Rodrigue’s) father; Chimène loves Rodrigue, Peter Cox’s The Garden of England, for the 1984
but has to demand his life from the King miners’ strike.
because he has killed her father. Happily, the
King needs to keep Rodrigue alive to beat the
Moors, and persuades Chimène to declare her CORTHRON, Kia
love by telling her Rodrigue is dead. The play American dramatist
is called a tragicomedy, but no one seems
PLAYS INCLUDE:
quite sure whether this is a happy ending or
Wake Up Lou Riser (1992), Come Down
not. The language is elevated and the senti-
Burning (1993), Cage Rhythm (1993), Life by
ments of all concerned excessively noble, but
Asphyxiation (1995), Seeking the Genesis
the effect can be very powerful. Corneille’s
(1996), Splash Hatch on the E Going Down
plays are not often produced in Britain.
(1997), Digging Eleven (1999), Force
Continuum (2000), Breath, Boom (2000), The
TRY THESE:
Venus de Milo is Armed (2003, workshopped
RACINE for seventeenth-century French drama
2001)
and for keeping to the neo-Aristotelian rules
better; CALDERÓN for the influence of Spanish Corthron has tackled a whole range of socio-
ideas of family honour. political issues ranging from the Ku Klux Klan
in modern America (Wake Up Lou Riser) to
prison (Cage Rhythm) to police brutality
CORRIE, Joe [1894 – 1968] (Force Continuum). The Venus de Milo is
British dramatist Armed has many resonances for a post-
September 11 America with its tale of land-
PLAYS INCLUDE:
mines and limblessness in Africa and the USA.
In Time o’ Strife (1927), Martha (1935),
Two of her works have had London produc-
Hewers of Coal (1937)
tions: Splash Hatch on the E Going Down
Corrie, an admirer of SEAN O’CASEY , wrote (Donmar Warehouse, 1999) contrasts its pre-
most successfully about Scottish mining – cocious protagonist’s academic understanding
mainly one-act plays for groups in the of environmental pollution with her inability
Scottish Community Drama Association. to cope with the personal realities of her hus-
Amongst his best plays are Hewers of Coal, the band suffering from lead poisoning; Breath,
archetypal pit-disaster play, and Martha, Boom, commissioned by the Royal Court,
which occupies similar territory to J. M. explores the lives of female gang members in
BARRIE ’s Mary Rose, in this case the ghostly Harlem. Based, like Seeking the Genesis, on
return of a mother’s lost son from World War research into the lives of inner-city black
I. Corrie’s greatest play, In Time o’ Strife, gangs, it eschews political moralising for clear-
chronicles the last days of the post-General sighted presentation of characters and issues.
Strike miners’ lockout in a small Scottish vil-
lage. Although Corrie is sometimes sentimen- TRY THESE:
tal, his sentiment is grounded in a genuine BEHAN ’s The Quare Fellow and PUIG ’s Kiss of
understanding and compassion for his char- the Spider Woman for alternative treatments of
acters and their predicaments, and it goes prison life; CHURCHILL ’s Far Away for environ-
along with an unsentimental analysis of the mental issues; for gangs, BENT , BOND ’s Saved,
responsibilities for those predicaments. UPTON .
C Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:06 Page 64

64 COWARD, Noël
COWARD, Noël [1899 – 1973] family invites guests to their home in
British dramatist, actor, singer and screenwriter Cookham only to drive them away again
through their own accumulated eccentricities.
PLAYS INCLUDE:
The play both revels in, and comments on, the
The Young Idea (1921), The Vortex (1924),
English fondness for ill-mannered artifice,
Fallen Angels (1925), Hay Fever (1925), Easy
and at its best – the visiting ‘drearies’ skulk
Virtue (1926), Semi-Monde (written 1926,
away as the family carries obliviously on over
performed 1977), Bitter Sweet (1929), Private
breakfast – it can be a deliriously funny expe-
Lives (1930), Cavalcade (1931), Design for
rience. As usual with Coward, a critique is
Living (1933), Tonight at 8.30 (1936),
implied: the Blisses may be lethally exciting
Operette (1938), Blithe Spirit (1941), Present
with their fondness for games and poses, but
Laughter (1943), This Happy Breed (1943),
his characters’ poor and pricelessly funny
Relative Values (1951), Quadrille (1952),
manners also serve to isolate them; they are
Nude with Violin (1956), Waiting in the
fundamentally alone.
Wings (1960), Sail Away (1961), Suite in
Three Keys (1965)
Private Lives
Whether you see him as the doyen of bitchery Written by Coward for himself and Gertrude
or the ultimate connoisseur of camp, Coward Lawrence to act, Private Lives is one of the
was more than an accomplished lyricist, actor simplest yet most subtle of comedies, and one
and cabaret performer. He was a great wit in a can take pleasure in the perfect rhythms of its
direct line from CONGREVE to SHERIDAN , language: ‘Don’t quibble, Sybil’ and ‘very flat,
 OSCAR WILDE and  JOE ORTON Norfolk’ have both entered the language. A
(Millamant’s ‘I Love To Give Pain’, from The divorced husband and wife, Amanda and
Way of the World, could serve as the subtext Elyot, bump into one another on their second
for Coward’s creations). The consummate honeymoons only to end up ditching their
man of the theatre himself, theatrical folk fig- new spouses, Victor and Sibyl, and abscond-
ure heavily in Coward’s plays, whether it’s the ing to Paris. Typically for Coward, elegant
matriarchal actress, Judith Bliss, in Hay Fever repartee hides hideous manners, and the
or the preening comedian Garry Essendine in characters are both aware of – and blind to –
Present Laughter, who admits ‘I’m always act- their own ruthlessness. Underneath the comic
ing’. Non-actors in his plays act, too: the surface is a very serious, almost existential,
hyper-theatrical Madam Arcati in Blithe point, about the bleakness of living.
Spirit, the polyglot houseboy Sebastien in
Nude with Violin. For Coward, as for WILDE , TRY THESE:
acting equals artifice equals disguise, and the PHILIP BARRY and ORTON for epigrammatic
tension in his work often comes from the similarities in tone; SIMON for variants on similar
effort required to sustain a pose without ideas; HELLMAN ’s Little Foxes for another ruthless
which characters, and their egos, dry up. family; SIMPSON ’s One Way Pendulum and
Coward’s plays may come adorned with AYCKBOURN for more middle-class versions of
comic frills that continue to entice, but at his the comic cruelties of English eccentrics;
best he is as serious and penetrating a drama- LUDLAM and BUSCH for campier wit; IBSEN
tist as Britain has known. Michael Grandage’s for less comic dysfunctional families; Peter Hall for
2002 production of The Vortex reminded linked productions of Design for Living and
audiences that Coward’s original reputation PINTER ’s Betrayal.
was made by a melodramatic exposé of
fashionable vices such as promiscuity, women
taking young lovers, and cocaine addiction. CRAZE, Tony [1944 – ]
British dramatist
Hay Fever
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Hay Fever is an anarchic precursor of ‘get the
The Love You Take (1981), Kaleidoscope
guest’ in EDWARD ALBEE ’s Who’s Afraid of
(1981), Confrontations (1981), Shona (1983),
Virginia Woolf. Coward’s eccentric Bliss
Living with Your Enemies (1985), Angelus
C Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp
2/4/07
16:06
Page 65

COWARD, Noël
65

Private Lives by Noël Coward, directed by Howard Davies, Albery Theatre, 2001. Alan Rickman as Elyot, Lindsay Duncan as Amanda. (Pete Jones/ArenaPAL)
C Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:06 Page 66

66 CRIMP, Martin
(1987) Going West (1988), Megabodies CRIMP, Martin [1956 – ]
(1989), Flying Ashes, (1990, based on Letters British dramatist
of Love by Julia Voznesenskaya), Passion
(2002) PLAYS INCLUDE:
Living Remains (1981), Three Attempted Acts
(1985, radio), A Variety of Death Defying Acts
Craze, a former journalist and screenwriter
(1985), Definitely the Bahamas (1986),
(he trained at the London Film School), was
Dealing with Clair (1988), Play with Repeats
artistic director of the Soho Poly, which
(1989), No One Sees the Video (1991), Getting
staged three of his major plays. Craze’s plays
Attention (1991), The Treatment (1993)
pack a powerful, emotional punch (though
Attempts on Her Life (1997), The Country
his dialogue can be irritatingly cryptic),
(2000)
showing individuals not only at loggerheads
within the family but also victims of blighted Crimp can rightly be claimed as a product of
dreams which reflect the way society has the Orange Tree Theatre at Richmond. As the
failed them. Living with Your Enemies relates a Daily Telegraph’s Charles Spencer has noted,
mother’s lost opportunities, sacrificed in ‘he appears to deal with humdrum people in
bringing up her children, back to her post- humdrum situations but nothing is as it
war youth and the promises offered by the seems’. Beneath the surface, Crimp implies
creation of the Welfare State. The flawed but worlds of darker meaning, thereby creating
explosive Angelus is a three-hander in which growing atmospheres of tension, even of
the spectre of a Jimmy Porter figure is resur- menace. When you add to this his spiky, spare,
rected for the 1980s in Mick, bully-boy, drugs apparently naturalistic but actually rigorously
dealer and sinner seeking redemption. With controlled and often very funny dialogue, it’s
its desperate spiritual yearnings, Angelus indi- little wonder he has been hailed, in some
cates that Craze is more than simply an quarters, as a new PINTER . Crimp’s plays are
adherent of the raw ‘slice of life’ school of certainly very much products of today, thinly
drama. Both Shona (the first winner of the disguised comedies of manners, expertly
Verity Bargate Award), which is a terse, reproducing recognisable types and surface
painful blast against modern psychiatric prac- tics. Crimp likes to peel back the layers of
tices, and Going West (about a couple of social behaviour to reveal the horrors and
hobos on the road from New York to LA) void beneath the veneer of contemporary life.
show that Craze is a champion of the under- No One Sees the Video, a scathing attack on
dog – his is a voice of compassion, chronicling market research (based on his own experi-
the area where frustrated dreams turn into ence), ended up as a series of short albeit bril-
anger and despair. Passion is a brave explo- liant sketches, ultimately lacking depth in
ration of the vexed issues of the Palestinian characterisation, burdened with a heavy-
situation. handed plot development and an inconclusive
ending. More successful, perhaps, was Dealing
TRY THESE: with Clair. A story set in very typical late
MARCHANT ’s The Lucky Ones for angst in the 1980s territory, yuppie-land, it brought
working class; for images of insanity, together Clair, a young female estate agent, a
AYCKBOURN ’s Woman in Mind, DURANG ’s sleekly upwardly mobile couple anxious to get
Beyond Therapy, EDGAR ’s Mary Barnes, the best possible price for their home, and a
MERCER ’s In Two Minds, MURRAY’ s The somewhat mysterious cash buyer. Clair’s pos-
Admission and Bodycell, ORTON ’s What the Butler sible murder at the end only coincidentally
Saw, WEISS ’s Marat/Sade; for generational con- paralleled the mystery surrounding the real-
flict between mothers and offspring, KEARSLEY , life disappearance of Suzy Lamplugh, a young
PAGE , RAIF ; PHILLIPS’ Strange Fruit, for gen- London estate agent. As in No One Sees the
erational differences in terms of the black com- Video, Crimp’s line is one of moral scruple
munity; for other responses to Palestine see highlighting the greed and avarice behind
BLOCK ’s Hand in Hand, HARE ’s Via Dolorosa, smooth yuppie smiles, the emptiness and
PASCAL ’s Crossing Jerusalem. moral bankruptcy behind sleek market
C Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:06 Page 67

CROSS, Felix 67

researchers, rather than just denouncing musical leitmotifs and rituals recalling Afro-
unethical real-estate practices or con- Caribbean rituals and rhythms. In Mass Carib
sumerism. In Getting Attention a sense of his achievement of fusing Western and Afro-
tension around the possibility of knowing – Caribbean musical idioms developed into a
and doing nothing – is perhaps really at issue, full-blown synthesis of the Roman Catholic
not just the child abuse that is the ostensible mass absorbed into Afro-Caribbean musical
subject. Attempts on Her Life was a radical forms. Incorporating elements of carnival,
experiment, with speeches unassigned to masks, and drumming, it also told the story of
characters, and in The Country Crimp’s the enforced conversion to Christianity of the
characteristic sense of immanent danger is slaves taken to the Caribbean, bringing them
transplanted from the city in what Michael up to date as immigrants arriving in Britain
Billington described as ‘an assault on the brandishing British passports. Mass Carib
pastoral myth’ (Guardian). was, by any standards, a tremendously
impressive theatrical and musical achieve-
TRY THESE: ment as well as a celebration of Afro-
Crimp has translated plays by GENET , Caribbean cultural survival-by-adaptation
IONESCO , Bernard-Marie Koltès, MARIVAUX (African Shango gods, for instance, being
and MOLIÈRE ; BRENTON and HARE ’s Pravda given Christian names). Glory, following a
and HARE ’s Secret Rapture, JEFFREYS ’ Valued similar theme, but with a more complex, anti-
Friends, LUCIE ’s Fashion, for other critiques of imperialist text by Cross, combined a strong
contemporary moral values; ANOUILH for storyline with magnificent musicianship and
another example of social satire digging away at theatrical spectacle, this time using calypso
the heart of moral darkness; MILLER ’s The Price alongside African Shango rituals and aspects
for linking consumer spending and the nation’s of carnival. Cross’s text ambitiously tries to
emotional state; AYCKBOURN for another British interweave personal tragedy (a young woman
playwright fond of peeling away social exteriors abused by her father), with the story of
to reveal the ooze beneath; MEYER ’s Etta Jenks Trinidad and Tobago’s struggle for political
for an American equivalent of Liz in No One Sees independence from the British – a heavy
the Video, a reluctant beginner who takes on the mixture to sustain. Some critics carped about
traits of her original oppressors, with a vengeance; its over-simplicities (mostly in the white
ROBERT HOLMAN ’s Rafts and Dreams also deals characters). Others accepted its shortcomings
with child abuse, though in a somewhat surreal and still marvelled at its scope. Passports deals
manner. with the experiences of two families arriving
in Britain in the 1950s, using a similar fusion
of musical influences, but some felt that the
CROSS, Felix [1953 – ] quality of the music was carrying a rather less
Trinidad-born performer, writer and composer well-achieved drama.
MUSICAL PLAYS INCLUDE:
TRY THESE:
Blues for Railton (1985), Mass Carib (1987),
BREUER ’s The Warrior Ant for a full-scale West
Glory (1988), Passports to the Promised Land
Indian carnival; Stephen Sondheim for the musical
(2001)
writer-composer par excellence; MATURA ’s The
Cross’s major contribution to black theatre Coup for a contrasting and almost farce-like view
lies in his cross-cultural pieces of musical of post-colonial Trinidad.
theatre and his artistic directorship of Nitro
(formerly Black Theatre Co-op). Blues for
Railton signalled the creation of a new form
of black theatre in Britain. Adapted with
David Simon from Simon’s original novel, it is
a tragicomedy about the experiences in
Britain of a black immigrant family whose
sense of identity was underlined through
D Theatre Guide (1).qxd 2/4/07 16:08 Page 68

 
D 
DANIELS, Sarah [1957 – ] Daniels won the George Devine Award in
British dramatist 1982 for Neaptide. Daniels’ concern with the
ways in which society labels ‘difficult’ women
PLAYS INCLUDE:
as mad continued in Head-Rot Holiday,
Ripen Our Darkness (1981), Masterpieces
written for the Clean Break company, which is
(1983), The Devil’s Gateway (1983), Neaptide
set in a mental hospital, and in The Madness of
(1984), Byrthrite (1987), The Gut Girls
Esme and Shaz. Daniels has written exten-
(1988), Beside Herself (1990), Head-Rot
sively for television, particularly EastEnders
Holiday (1992), The Madness of Esme and
and Grange Hill.
Shaz (1994), Blow Your House Down (1995),
Dust (2003)
Masterpieces
Daniels first came to prominence with Ripen This uncompromisingly didactic play makes a
Our Darkness – a play famous for the line direct link between the seemingly innocuous
‘Dear David, your dinner and my head are in dinner-table misogynist joke and male
the oven’ – premiered, like Byrthrite, at the violence against women. It is a tale of growing
Royal Court Upstairs. Her attacks on patri- awareness, focused on Rowena, a social
archy involve the rebellion of mothers (Ripen worker (the archetypal Daniels heroine), who
Our Darkness and The Devil’s Gateway) and gradually moves from naivety to anger, from
the discussion of lesbian custody of children passivity to action and wholesale rejection of
in Neaptide. Byrthrite is a warning for women the manmade world in which she lives and to
about the possible consequences of modern which she has, in the past, given tacit accept-
genetic engineering and reproductive tech- ance. The play has an irrefutable emotional
niques and is linked to a familiar theme of the force about it and has deservedly come to be
persecution of the old ‘wise women’ of the regarded as a feminist classic, even if some
seventeenth century (though by no means find its philosophical links and dramatic
treated in familiar fashion, and, in its high- structure questionable.
camp, historical setting, a breakaway from
Daniels’ usual quasi-naturalism). The Gut TRY THESE:
Girls continues the historical theme with its For a contrasting male treatment of pornography,
celebration of Victorian working-class LUCIE ’s Progress; RAVENHILL ’s Handbag for
women, and Beside Herself tackles childhood Wildean custody issues; WANDOR scripted Gay
abuse in a mythological frame. Sweatshop’s Care and Control, an earlier treatment
Needless to say, Daniels’ plays and her of lesbian custody; CHURCHILL ’s Vinegar Tom
expression of unpalatable truths (especially if and DEKKER , FORD and ROWLEY ’s The Witch
you are a man) provoked, in their turn, vitri- of Edmonton for witches; LAVERY for an adven-
olically hostile reviews from critics (mostly turer using wit to attack the bastions of patri-
but not exclusively male), particularly over archy; SHAKESPEARE ’s The Winter’s Tale uses the
Masterpieces and Byrthrite. But Daniels’ early same Demeter myth as Neaptide; CHAMBERS as
protagonists are recognisable suburban wives an American pioneer of lesbian drama; the use of
and mothers rebelling – wittily – against their mythological figures in the first scene of Beside
roles as general moppers-up after men and Herself parallels some of CHURCHILL’ s stylistic
the male value system that has put them there. devices in Top Girls.
In Daniels’ world, the personal becomes
graphically political. Despite the outcries,
D Theatre Guide (1).qxd 2/4/07 16:08 Page 69

DAVIES, Andrew 69

D’ARCY, Margaretta before you know why to live’ was generally


See ARDEN, John praised. The King of Prussia and The Riot,
both on Cornish historical themes with
resonances for the new century, failed to
DARKE, Nick [1949 – ] achieve a long-looked-for breakthrough.
British dramatist
TRY THESE:
PLAYS INCLUDE:
KAUFMAN and HART ’s Once in a Lifetime,
Never Say Rabbit in a Boat (1978),
KOPIT ’s Road to Nirvana, MAMET ’s Speed-the-
Landmarks (1979), A Tickle on the River’s
Back (1979), Say Your Prayers (1980), The
Plow, SHEPARD ’s Angel City, CHARLES WOOD
(especially Has‘Washington’ Legs? and Veterans) for
Catch (1980), High Water (1980), The Body
theatrical looks at the machinations of the movie
(1983), The Oven Glove Murders (1986), The
industry; Ting Tang Mine is reminiscent of
Dead Monkey (1986), Ting Tang Mine (1987),
SYNGE ’s Playboy of the Western World; ALBEE
Kissing the Pope (1987), The King of Prussia
and RABE for a kind of American Absurdism
(1999), The Riot (1999)
which Darke seems to want to emulate; CLARK ’s
An erstwhile actor, Cornish-born Darke The Petition, DANIELS ’ The Devil’s Gateway,
remains an enigmatic dramatist who has yet EDGAR ’s Maydays for other plays about
to achieve an unchallenged success. Many of American airforce bases; ARDEN ’s Serjeant
his plays draw on the terrain of his upbring- Musgrave’s Dance for small-town disturbances.
ing, but his psychological grasp often falls
short of his geographical one, and his writing
becomes more earnest and pedantic the DAVIES, Andrew [1936 – ]
further it strays from his own roots. In The British dramatist
Body, an eccentric West Country community
PLAYS INCLUDE:
must contend with the presence of an
Filthy Fryer and the Woman of Maturer Years
American airforce base in one of those plays
(1974), Rose (1980), Prin (1990)
about the bomb that shows what poor art can
come out of good politics. In Ting Tang Mine, Now firmly established as Britain’s leading
originally staged as a Cornish community adapter of classic novels for television, Davies,
play in 1984 under the title The Earth Turned a former teacher and lecturer, has written
Inside Out, the fate of two rival mining com- successfully for many media (his children’s
munities becomes an unconvincing parable of book Conrad’s War won the 1978 Guardian
Thatcherite avarice. Greed’s relationship to Award and Boston Globe Horn Award). Prin,
the screen gets the treatment in The Oven a sourly funny ‘well made’ comedy, focuses on
Glove Murders and Californian morality that familiar breed the English eccentric, in
comes under the cudgel in The Dead Monkey, the form of the principal of a teacher’s train-
about a childless West Coast couple whose ing college for physical education fighting a
relationship has been kept alive for fifteen rearguard action against the grey drabness of
years by the now-dead simian of the title. Like modern educational policies. Prin is at once a
many of Darke’s plays, the topic is interesting symbol of the enlightened progressive in all
but the style derivative. David Soul and Alexa its dangerous, thrilling glory (shades of Jean
Hamilton revived it in 1998 but without Brodie), and at the same time more than
reversing earlier judgements. Kissing the Pope, faintly ludicrous in her refusal to move with
inspired by a visit to Nicaragua, an earnest the times. A bullying tyrant to friend, foe and
attempt to confront that area’s tragic ironies, young female lover alike, she is given all the
failed to find general favour, being labelled as best lines, but finally deprived of happiness.
simplistic agit-prop and propaganda. How-
ever, Darke’s sensitive examination of the TRY THESE:
relationship between a young Contra and a Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and
young Sandinista ‘growing up to be a man in SIMON GRAY ’s Butley for other articulate but
a violent world, having to decide why to kill fairly bilious educationalists; MARCUS ’s The
D Theatre Guide (1).qxd 2/4/07 16:08 Page 70

70 DE ANGELIS, April
Killing of Sister George has obvious affinities with continues to investigate the historical config-
Prin in its depiction of lesbian life and loves; urations of psychological confrontations
WILDE for paradoxes in dialogue and character; between mothers and daughters. Crux uses
PETER SHAFFER ’s Equus and Amadeus for flawed the suppression of a medieval women’s com-
genius and mundane mediocrity. munity’s attempts to explore issues of power
and desire. Hush, unusually for de Angelis, is
set in modern times and caused Irving Wardle
DE ANGELIS, April [1960 – ] to declare that ‘after this well-plotted moral
British dramatist thriller . . . the obsequies for the State-of-
England Play have been premature’. The
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Positive Hour similarly deals with contempo-
Breathless (1986), Wanderlust (1988), Women
rary crises in the family as a social worker
in Law (1988), Frankenstein (1989), Iron
finds herself at the centre of a nexus of per-
Mistress (1989), Crux (1990), Fanny Hill
sonal and professional crises. A Warwickshire
(1991, from John Cleland), Hush (1992)
Testimony, for the RSC, examines the realities
Playhouse Creatures (1993), Soft Vengeance
of rural life through an initial focus on the
(1993, adapted from Albie Sachs), The
village post office that is about to be sold off
Positive Hour (1997), A Warwickshire
to incomers. As the couple who had run the
Testimony (1999), A Laughing Matter (2002)
office try to come to terms with their dis-
De Angelis worked as an actress with placement, de Angelis opens the play up to
Monstrous Regiment, ReSisters and Lumiere explore the realities of a past that was never
and Son before embarking on an increasingly the bucolic idyll that nostalgia offers as a
distinguished writing career. Breathless, an substitute for actual experience.
award winner in the 1987 Second Wave Young Her interest in women in history turned in
Women’s writing festival at the Albany, pro- a new direction with Playhouse Creatures, an
pelled her into prominence. A short, goth- exploration of the first generation of English
ically atmospheric drama written with verve, actresses as they attempt to negotiate the pub-
wit and very contemporary consciousness lic and private perils of establishing their new
about women and science, it rehashed the old profession in Restoration London, which she
Frankenstein myth and the stereotypical help- followed with A Laughing Matter, in which
less Victorian heroine, with a contrasting pair she tackled the theatre of the late eighteenth
of drooping mistress and obsessive maid, century and the reasons for  DAVID
working away in the dungeons amongst the GARRICK ’s reluctance to stage GOLDSMITH ’s
test tubes, frustrated at not being taken seri- She Stoops to Conquer.
ously as scientists. Women in Law carries on in
something of the same vein. It uses a gothic TRY THESE:
setting, a thriller convention, and another, LEVY for a similar kind of verve and imaginative
even more extravagant variant of la châtelaine drive; BRENTON ’s Bloody Poetry for the Shelleys;
enchainée (this one owes more than a little to Graeae for a version of Frankenstein; BARKER ’s
a demented kind of Bette Davis/Miss The Castle for medieval communes of women and
Favisham) who is, again, a scientist manqué Victory for another version of Nell Gwyn;
pining for a lost career as a marine biologist. JEFFREYS ’ The Libertine for another version of
Commissioned by the ReSisters theatre com- the period of Playhouse Creatures; Restoration
pany, the play was ostensibly written to back writers, such as BEHN , CONGREVE , ETHEREGE
up ideas about women and violence and the and WYCHERLEY ; SHERIDAN for eighteenth-
way they are treated in law, and though the century comedy; BOND ’s Restoration uses
polemic was laudable, the play suffered from conventions and themes derived from the
its obvious brief. In Wanderlust, de Angelis’s practice of Restoration writers to make modern
wilder shores and tongue-in-cheek imagina- points; DANIELS ’ Masterpieces for a social worker
tion takes on the Great Man myth of David in crisis.
Livingstone, to make some serious points
about colonialism in Africa. Iron Mistress
D Theatre Guide (1).qxd
2/4/07
16:08
Page 71

DE ANGELIS, April
71

A Laughing Matter by April de Angelis, directed by Max Stafford-Clark, National Theatre and Out of Joint, 2002. Christopher Staines, Jason Watkins as David Garrick,
Monica Dolan as Peg Woffington. (Pete Jones/ArenaPAL)
D Theatre Guide (1).qxd 2/4/07 16:08 Page 72

72 DEAR, Nick
DEAR, Nick [1955 – ] DE FILIPPO, Eduardo [1900 – 85]
British dramatist Italian actor, poet and dramatist
PLAYS INCLUDE: PLAYS INCLUDE:
The Perfect Alibi (1980), Temptation (1984), Oh These Ghosts! (1946), Filumena (1946),
The Bed (1986), Pure Science (1986), The Art Inner Voices (1948, translated by N. F.
of Success (1986), Food of Love (1988), In the SIMPSON), Fear Number One (1950), My
Ruins (1990), Zenobia (1995), The Villain’s Darling and My Love (1955), Saturday,
Opera (2000), Power (2003) Sunday, Monday (1959, translated by KEITH
WATERHOUSE and WILLIS HALL), Ducking Out
Portsmouth-born Dear came to attention
(1982, translated by Mike Stott), Napoli
with The Art of Success, an RSC production
Milionaria (English version by Peter
that earned him an Olivier Award nomination
Tinniswood, 1991)
for the Most Promising Newcomer in
Theatre. Set in the eighteenth century, the De Filippo wrote more than fifty plays. Born
play is purposefully revisionist and anachro- into a family of actors (one of three illegiti-
nistic in order to make a retroactive point mate children), he began his career by touring
about opportunism and lust, with the Prime with the famous Scarpetta acting company
Minister Walpole as the Mrs Thatcher of his before founding a company with his brother
time facing off against the similarly Peppino and sister Titina.
Thatcherite entrepreneurial satirical artist Based on his experience as an actor, and his
William Hogarth. The play compresses ten early days writing comedy and musical
years into one night and takes various liber- sketches, his later Neapolitan comedies are
ties with personal and political history, but nothing if not supremely actable, distinguished
there’s no denying the vigour of Dear’s by their craftsmanship and a Pirandellian
scatology-laden language. His follow-up play involvement with the fine line between illusion
A Family Affair (1988) (an  OSTROVSKY and reality. As in AYCKBOURN’s plays the
adaptation for Cheek by Jowl) has a similarly comic impetus comes from the recognisable
contemporary bent in its depiction of a soci- ordinariness of domestic life crashing up
ety both goaded on, and paralysed, by matters against the unexpected, the surreal, or the
financial. In the Ruins is a bravura, virtual inappropriate emotional over-reaction. In
monologue by King George III, which con- Saturday, Sunday, Monday, the quintessential
trasts the image of the monarchy with the de Filippo, the inevitable matriarch presides
reality of the monarch. Dear’s adaptation of over the warring factions of an extended family
Tirso de Molina’s The Last Days of Don Juan – squabbling offspring, eccentric relatives, a
was very successful for the RSC in 1990/1. paranoid husband, opportunistic friends and
Zenobia is a retelling of the story of the third- lumbering maid – as they somehow live, love,
century AD warrior queen who challenged fight, survive the heightened emotions of the
Roman rule, and The Villain’s Opera an rituals of Sunday lunch and become recon-
updating of GAY and BRECHT that won ciled. Paternity and female subterfuge form the
few plaudits. His other work includes the lynchpins of Filumena in which, when a
films of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, which won a wealthy businessman threatens to marry a
BAFTA award in 1996, and The Gambler. younger woman, his long-standing mistress
hoodwinks him into marriage by refusing to
TRY THESE: disclose which of her three illegitimate sons is
BOND ’s Bingo and PETER SHAFFER ’s Amadeus his. Filumena tells us as much about male pride
for analogous debunkings of historical greats; as it does about female deviousness.
BARKER and JONSON for a similar robustness
of language; HORVÁTH and SHAW for Don TRY THESE:
Juans; Dear’s other adaptations include BILL’s Curtains for the joys (or otherwise) of
ARBUZOV ’s The Promise for the Tricycle in 2002, families; PIRANDELLO, FO and RAME are other
GORKY ’s Summerfolk and MOLIÈRE ’s Le regularly performed twentieth-century Italian
Bourgeois Gentilhomme. dramatists.
D Theatre Guide (1).qxd 2/4/07 16:08 Page 73

DELANEY, Shelagh 73

DEKKER, Thomas [c. 1572 – 1632] BRENTON , CAMPBELL and HARE on Deeds);
English dramatist and pamphleteer for another real-life portrait of a woman stepping
outside traditional roles, WERTENBAKER ’s
PLAYS INCLUDE:
account of intrepid traveller Isabelle Ebhardt in
The Shoemaker’s Holiday (1599), The Honest
Whore (1604, with THOMAS MIDDLETON ), Sir
New Anatomies; BEHN for other prototype
feminists.
Thomas Wyatt (pre-1607, with THOMAS
HEYWOOD (?) and JOHN WEBSTER ), The
Roaring Girl (1610, with THOMAS
DELANEY, Shelagh [1939 – ]
MIDDLETON ), The Virgin Martyr (1624, with
PHILIP MASSINGER ), The Witch of Edmonton
British dramatist
(1621, with JOHN FORD and WILLIAM PLAYS INCLUDE:
ROWLEY ) A Taste of Honey (1958), The Lion in Love
(1960), The House That Jack Built (1978)
A rather shadowy figure who seems to have
earned his living as a kind of house dramatist Delaney’s main stage claim to fame is based
cum play doctor and pamphleteer, Dekker on A Taste of Honey, the play she wrote at
was imprisoned on more than one occasion nineteen. Born in Salford, this one-time sales-
for the debt that dogged him throughout his girl, cinema usherette and photographer’s lab
life. He seems to have spent much of his life assistant who left school at sixteen, wrote
producing collaborative work in whatever what has come to be regarded as one of the
style was needed by the theatre manager definitive plays of the 1950s. A Taste of Honey,
Philip Henslowe. Dekker’s own dramatic her first play, was accepted by  JOAN
work is generally genial, compassionate, LITTLEWOOD ’s Theatre Workshop, was filmed
London-centred and populist as in The (with Rita Tushingham as Jo) and is regularly
Shoemaker’s Holiday with its Dick revived in Britain. The Lion in Love, about a
Whittington-like tale of a cobbler who rises to disturbed and unhappy family, again took a
become Lord Mayor of London while a dis- mother and daughter as its focal point, but its
guised young nobleman woos and wins the more symbolic treatment found less favour,
daughter of the current Lord Mayor and and some thought it was swamped by
receives the King’s pardon for doing so. The Littlewood’s production. The play is seldom
Roaring Girl is particularly interesting since revived, although its style, themes, and sensi-
its portrait of a woman who scandalises tivities prefigure the work of such contempo-
contemporary society by wearing men’s rary British dramatists as AYSHE RAIF and
clothing and indulging in typical male JULIA KEARSLEY . A revival giving us a chance
pursuits like smoking and brawling is based to ‘compare and contrast’ would be fascinat-
on a real person, Mary Frith, who herself sat ing. Delaney has written many screenplays,
on stage to watch an early performance of the notably Charley Bubbles (1968, starring Albert
play. Dekker is also credited with the sympa- Finney) and the highly acclaimed Dance with
thetic portrayal of the witch in The Witch of a Stranger (1985) about the last woman to be
Edmonton. hanged in Britain, Ruth Ellis.

TRY THESE: A Taste of Honey


JONSON satirised him in The Poetaster; AUDEN This play breaks many of its time’s conven-
and Isherwood, BRENTON and HARE , HECHT tions about motherhood and female sexuality
and MacArthur are examples of successful in its portrait of Jo, the young working-class,
twentieth-century partnerships; among other reluctant mother-to-be and anti-heroine. In
contemporary writers who have also collaborated another sense it is very much of its time in
successfully are IKOLI and Tariq Ali (with celebrating a working-class approach, at once
BRENTON ), CHURCHILL (with LAN ), EDGAR unsentimental and free of moral judgements,
(with Susan Todd), TREVOR GRIFFITHS (with to illegitimacy, racial intermarriage, or homo-
BRENTON , CLARK , HARE , POLIAKOFF , Hugh sexuality. With its female-centred focus, and
Stoddart and SNOO WILSON on Lay By and with final opting for a life without men, it is a play
D Theatre Guide (1).qxd 2/4/07 16:08 Page 74

74 DE VEGA CARPIO, Lope Félix


that predates the concerns of later feminist well yield something revivable, though per-
writers – the optimism and the vulnerabili- haps not many of the plays where private exe-
ties, as well as the strengths of women – by cutions are condoned in the cause of restoring
well over a decade. However, despite its a wife’s honour. The best of these is probably
apparent affiliation to the realistic school of The King is the Best Judge, in which the king,
‘kitchen sink’ drama, its original production disguised as a mayor, obliges a nobleman to
by Littlewood made sure that audiences were marry a village girl he has abducted, has him
not let off the hook as she confronted them beheaded and then grants her half of his
with the challenges and the responsibilities estate and gives her back to her young lover –
raised by the play’s sexual politics. a satisfying solution on both a personal and a
civic level.  JOHN OSBORNE adapted La
TRY THESE: Fianza Satisfecha as A Bond Honoured for the
JELLICOE ’s The Sport of My Mad Mother for a National Theatre in 1966, but the play one is
bold, non-realistic treatment of the mother image; most likely to see at present is a version of
WATERHOUSE and Willis Hall’s Billy Liar for the Fuenteovejuna. This play is unusual in that the
theme of transposing grim reality into dreams; people of the village become a collective pro-
MACDONALD and PAGE for more recent tagonist. The overlord snatches the mayor’s
images of mother–daughter conflict; OSBORNE ’s daughter Laurencia from her wedding and
Look Back in Anger for a contrasting treatment imprisons the groom, but she escapes and
and male view of pregnancy; IBSEN ’s Hedda incites the townspeople to behead him. The
Gabler for another image of reluctant pregnancy; whole village, even under torture, declare that
for more warring families, DE FILIPPO ’s Ducking ‘Fuenteovejuna did it’, and finally King
Out. Ferdinand collectively pardons them for the
justice of the act and reunites the lovers. The
play is popular with progressive political
DE VEGA CARPIO, groups, but some of the honour-and-revenge
Lope Félix [1562 – 1635] plays would give them more trouble.
Spanish dramatist
TRY THESE:
PLAYS INCLUDE:
CALDERÓN , who borrowed plots from de Vega
Fuenteovejuna (1612, The Sheep Well), The
and refined his plays; AESCHYLUS ’ The Persians
Simple Lady (1613), Peribanez (1614), The
for another collective protagonist; GOOCH for
King is the Best Judge (c. 1620), Punishment
an adaptation of Fuenteovejuna; ADRIAN
without Revenge (1631)
MITCHELL ’s adaptation of Robert Browning’s The
De Vega claimed to have written an amazing Pied Piper presents a town the children want to
total of 1,500 plays, of which about 480 sur- escape from; for a different view of communities
vive (mostly in manuscript). He also wrote see CARTWRIGHT ’s Road.
three novels and 3,000 sonnets, married
twice, had some seven major love affairs, and
sailed with the Spanish Armada. He fixed and DEVLIN, Ann [1951 – ]
developed the form of the Spanish comedia, Northern Irish dramatist
attacking the pseudo-Aristotelian unities and
PLAYS INCLUDE:
freely mixing comedy and tragedy (and
Ourselves Alone (1985), Heartlanders (1989,
indeed pastoral and historical as well). His
with STEPHEN BILL and DAVID EDGAR ),
plays are well constructed, more inclined to
After Easter (1994)
entertaining action than subtle characterisa-
tion (most of his work was done at speed to Devlin has written extensively for television
satisfy the demands of theatre directors), and (she won the Samuel Beckett Award for her
often deal with questions of family honour television plays A Woman Calling and The
and paternal authority (of which he is in Long March in 1984), radio and film. Her solo
favour). As suggested by the Young Vic’s 2003 stage plays both centre on the Northern Irish
staging of Peribanez, the rest of his plays could situation. Ourselves Alone, which won both
D Theatre Guide (1).qxd 2/4/07 16:08 Page 75

DORFMAN, Ariel 75

the George Devine and Susan Smith Orange Tree in tandem with CHEKHOV ’s
Blackburn Awards, is a warm, toughly plotted original. De Wet sees parallels between her
political thriller, set in the aftermath of the own situation as an Afrikaner in South Africa
1981 hunger strikes of Northern Ireland. and the situation underlying Three Sisters.
Something of a trailblazer, it was an early The play is set in the aftermath of the
attempt to show the tragic consequences of Revolution: Andrei, Olga and Irina are still
entrenched views, from a female perspective. where they were but Vershinin, now a general
As such, its central focus was less concerned in the White army, has returned. De Wet
with the pros and cons of Republicanism than attempts something similar with Uncle Vanya
with showing the struggle of three sisters to in Yelena, and The Seagull in On the Lake. Her
escape stifling familial and political bonds. Crossing, seen at Riverside Studios in 2000, is
Argument has raged about whether the play set in South Africa in 1930 and tells the story
reinforced certain stereotypes (chauvinism of of how two sisters who live by a river are
Irish men), and whether the portrait of haunted by the spirit of a woman who
women was unduly pessimistic (one responds ignored their warning not to try to cross the
by escaping to England, another, a former IRA river.
supporter, settles down to blissful maternity,
the third waits for a prisoner to be released TRY THESE:
but finds he wasn’t worth the wait). In After Helen Cooper’s Mrs Vershinin tells the story of how
Easter the story is again of three sisters: one, she came to be the offstage neurotic in Three
living in England, is mentally disturbed, a sec- Sisters; FRIEL has adapted The Cherry Orchard to
ond tries to pass for an American, and the an Irish setting and his Afterplay brings together
third is settled close to the family home. They Sonia from Uncle Vanya and Andrei from Three
are brought together by their father’s heart Sisters after the Revolution; Michael Picardie’s The
attack in a forced family reunion that results Cape Orchard applied it to South Africa; MATURA
in domestic confrontations and revisiting of transferred Three Sisters to Trinidad in his Trinidad
past conflicts. Sisters; FUGARD for other South African plays.
TRY THESE:
REID ’s Tea in a China Cup and MARIE JONES for DORFMAN, Ariel [1942 – ]
Belfast plays with a specifically women-centred Argentinean-born dramatist, now a Chilean
focus; MORNIN ’s Kate and Built on Sand for the citizen
effects of the Troubles on women; FINNEGAN
PLAYS INCLUDE:
for a more stylised, many-faceted exploration of
Death and the Maiden (1991), Reader (1995),
Northern Ireland’s religious and political loyalties;
Widows (1997), Purgatory (2000)
HUTCHINSON ’s Rat in the Skull for a different
variant; O’CASEY for similar concerns; CARR for Under threat from the Peron regime because
sisters suffering and CHEKHOV for the Three they were Jews and his father was politically
Sisters; AYCKBOURN , and ELIOT ’s The Family active, Dorfman’s family left Argentina for the
Reunion for other versions of unhappy families. USA in 1945. They fled the USA because of
McCarthyism and settled in Chile, where
Dorfman established himself as a novelist,
DE WET, Reza poet and critic. As an adviser to the govern-
South African dramatist ment of Salvador Allende, he was persona non
grata after the Pinochet coup and once more
PLAYS INCLUDE
went into exile in Europe and the USA. He
Crossing (1994), Three Sisters Two (1997),
campaigned against the human rights abuses
Yelena (1998), On the Lake (2001)
of the Chilean dictatorship, returned there in
A leading South African dramatist who writes 1983 but left again when political repression
in both Afrikaans and English, de Wet’s major increased in 1986 after Pinochet survived an
impact in Britain so far came from the 2002 assassination attempt. After the restoration of
premiere of Three Sisters Two, presented at the democracy in Chile in 1990 he was able to
D Theatre Guide (1).qxd 2/4/07 16:08 Page 76

76 DOWIE, Claire
return again but he also works at Duke ‘about’ an unloved child teetering on the edge
University in the USA. of schizophrenia. She doesn’t so much
Dorfman’s most famous play is Death and portray her roles as inhabit them, dragging
the Maiden, a worldwide success, which was the audience along with her on a journey that,
filmed in 1994. A woman who was repeatedly in Adult Child, takes her from unwanted
tortured and raped to the sound of Schubert home environment to lonely bedsit and psy-
believes that she has one of her tormentors at chiatric treatment as she tries to come to
her mercy in an isolated beach house. The play terms with the rules of an adult world press-
draws very directly on first-hand knowledge of ing her to conform. Why Is John Lennon
exile and torture to explore complex issues of Wearing a Skirt? is a two-hour tour de force,
morality, revenge, justice and forgiveness. In part hilarious satire, part invective, against
Widows Dorfman again uses a setting in an wearing a skirt and the whole teenage peer-
unnamed South American country to purse pressure of becoming a woman (she just
his concern for the victims of state violence: wants to be herself; the Beatles are her gang
here the inspiration is the relatives of the and John Lennon her model). Dowie is the
‘Disappeared’ who wait for a river to wash up quintessential outsider, never half so funny as
the dead. The women become a modern-day when she is puncturing sacred cows, the
Greek chorus united by their shared grief. women’s movement included. Leaking from
Reader is about an efficient censor in the Every Orifice deals with a lesbian woman who
future who finds himself attempting to censor gets pregnant by a gay man while Designs for
what turns out to be the story of his life. Living, commissioned by Ruby Tuesday, a
group created ‘to present the very best of les-
TRY THESE: bian theatre’, has three characters locked in a
HAVEL , PINTER ’s One for the Road and complex dance of sexual attraction, compli-
Mountain Language, STOPPARD ’s Every Good Boy cated by difficulties with gender stereotyping.
Deserves Favour for political repression;
PIRANDELLO for parallels with Reader; TRY THESE:
EURIPIDES ’ Women of Troy, SYNGE ’s Riders to CRAZE , EDGAR , MURRAY , for other British
the Sea for parallels with Widows; for music and playwrights who have tackled the subject of
repression, C. P. TAYLOR ’s Good. schizophrenia; BOGOSIAN and SPALDING GRAY
for American monologues; CRIMP ’s Getting
Attention, CROSS ’s Glory!, ROBERT HOLMAN ’s
DOWIE, Claire [1956 – ] Rafts and Dreams all touch on the issue of child
British dramatist and performer abuse; COOKE , MACDONALD , PINNOCK for
contrasting examples of young women and
PLAYS INCLUDE:
teenage development: COWARD ’s Design for
Cat and Mouse (1986), Adult Child/Dead
Child (1988), Why is John Lennon Wearing a
Living for a parallel with Designs for Living;
RAVENHILL ’s Handbag for the complexities of
Skirt? (1990), Leaking from Every Orifice
homosexual pregnancy.
(1993), Death and Dancing (1993), All Over
Lovely (1998), The Year of the Monkey (2000,
originally radio), Designs for Living (2001)
DREXLER, Rosalyn [1926 – ]
Birmingham-born Dowie was once a stand- American dramatist, novelist and painter
up comic and performer of her own poems
PLAYS INCLUDE:
on the alternative cabaret circuit before
Home Movies (1964), Hot Buttered Roll
developing what she describes as ‘stand-up
(1966), The Line of Least Resistance (1968),
theatre’. Her monologues, often interlaced
Skywriting (1968), Softly, and Consider the
with poetry, are nerveless exposures of the
Nearness (1973), The Writer’s Opera (1979),
individual rebelling against social conformity.
Graven Image (1980), Delicate Feelings
Cat and Mouse and Adult Child/Dead Child
(1984), Green River Murders (1986), The
set a sombre, indeed devastating tone, the first
Heart That Eats Itself (1988), Dear (1996),
being ‘about’ child abuse, and the second
Occupational Hazard (1996)
D Theatre Guide (1).qxd 2/4/07 16:08 Page 77

DUFFY, Maureen 77

Drexler has distinguished herself as a play- staged regularly is All for Love. It is a treatment
wright, novelist, screenwriter, painter and of the Antony and Cleopatra story, which is
sculptor. A strong visual sense pervades her usually compared unfavourably with
work, although she is as apt to get a laugh SHAKESPEARE ’s play by those who assume,
with elaborate puns as with sight gags. wrongly, that because Dryden adapted The
Absurdist situations and wordplay pervade Tempest he did the same to Antony and
her writing. Cleopatra. The fact that the very occasional
Her semi-autobiographical novel To productions of Dryden’s Tempest demon-
Smithereens (1972) recounts the story of a strate that it is a good acting play tend to be
woman turned wrestler to please her art-critic forgotten in routine denunciations of the
lover who found female wrestlers a turn-on. depravity of even daring to adapt the Bard.
This experience clearly inspired the peculiar Something similar happens with All for Love,
angle on traditional male–female relation- which tends to get castigated for not achiev-
ships evidenced in Drexler’s early work, long ing the epic grandeur and flexibility of
before the women’s movement got off the SHAKESPEARE ’s play; in fact it is a far more
ground. In Home Movies, a resurrected concentrated and domestic work dealing with
husband challenges his wife to a wrestling the theme in terms of a love/honour conflict
match as sexual foreplay; in Hot Buttered Roll, of the kind beloved of Restoration tragedy.
a billionaire engages a crew of burly-girls to
give him a kick that will break his sex-o- TRY THESE:
meter. Delicate Feelings is about two lady mud SHAW ’s Caesar and Cleopatra is another treat-
wrestlers. In 1979, Drexler won her second ment of the Cleopatra story which, like All for Love,
OBIE for The Writer’s Opera, a comedy is sometimes staged in repertory with
examining the role of women as artists and SHAKESPEARE ’s Antony and Cleopatra; OTWAY ’s
mothers inspired by the life of Suzanne Venice Preserv’d is the only other tragedy from the
Valadon and her son Maurice Utrillo. period still staged regularly; Dryden’s comedies
are seldom revived but those of his contempo-
TRY THESE: raries BEHN , CONGREVE , ETHEREGE and
CHURCHILL ’s Cloud Nine for sexual role reversal; WYCHERLEY make more frequent appearances
IONESCO for Absurdism; FEIFFER for comic- in the current repertory.
book sketches; HOWE for comic conceits;
TERRY for early feminist playwriting; LUCKHAM
for wrestling as a metaphor; SACKLER , STOREY DUFFY, Maureen [1933 – ]
for other sporting metaphors. British novelist, poet and dramatist
PLAYS INCLUDE:
The Lay Off (1962), The Silk Room (1966),
DRYDEN, John [1631 – 1700]
Rites (1969), Solo (1970), Old Tyme (1970), A
English dramatist, poet and critic Nightingale in Bloomsbury Square (1973)
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Novelist, lesbian and feminist, whose
The Indian Queen (1664, with Sir Robert
dramatic output has been small but signifi-
Howard), The Indian Emperor (1665), The
cant, Duffy is a writer of rich imagination and
Tempest (1667, with Sir William Davenant),
plunderer of classical mythologies, ‘pitched
Tyrannic Love (1669), The Conquest of
between fantasy and realism’ (Frank Marcus).
Granada (in two parts, 1670 and 1671),
Rites, her main claim to dramatic fame, is set
Marriage à la Mode (1672), Aureng-Zebe
in a ladies’ public lavatory and loosely based
(1675), All for Love (1677), Oedipus (1678,
on EURIPIDES ’ The Bacchae. Its emphasis on
with Nathaniel Lee), Troilus and Cressida
a group of women can be seen as a precursor
(1678)
to NELL DUNN ’s Steaming. But it is consider-
Dryden, one of the great literary figures of his ably more audacious in its mix of classical and
age, wrote singly or in collaboration, nearly modern ritual (a latter-day chorus inveighing
thirty plays but the only one of his plays to be against daily frustrations) and violence (the
D Theatre Guide (1).qxd 2/4/07 16:08 Page 78

78 DUMAS, Alexandre
murder of a transvestite lesbian). It is a brave TRY THESE:
and questioning play that prefigures many of Zola’s Nana rings the changes on the courtesan
the concerns of later female playwrights theme; PINERO for the ‘woman with a past’ in
about language, territory, gender and making The Second Mrs Tanqueray; Shaw for an attack on
the personal public and political. Solo and Old this kind of play in Mrs Warren’s Profession;
Tyme are other studies based on the mytho- LUDLAM ’s Camille for a comic take on this char-
logical characters of Narcissus and Uranus acter; GEMS for feminist reassessments of other
respectively. A Nightingale in Bloomsbury mythical/legendary figures such as Piaf and
Square is more of a biodrama-cum-mono- Queen Christina.
logue around the figure of Virginia Woolf,
nudged on by Vita Sackville-West and Freud.
DUNBAR, Andrea [1965 – 90]
TRY THESE: British dramatist
CHURCHILL and LAN ’s A Mouthful of Birds and
PLAYS INCLUDE:
LAVERY ’s Kitchen Matters are also based on The
The Arbor (1980), Rita Sue and Bob Too
Bacchae; MACDONALD ’s When I Was a Girl I Used (1981), Shirley (1986)
to Scream and Shout for another example of
female privacy made public. Dunbar was brought up on a council estate on
the outskirts of Bradford, and sent The Arbor,
her first play, written at the age of fifteen, to
DUMAS, Alexandre (fils) [1824 – 95] the Royal Court Young Writer’s Festival.
French dramatist and novelist Produced at the Theatre Upstairs and trans-
ferred to the main stage in an expanded
PLAYS INCLUDE:
version, it is a bleak study of life on a council
La Dame aux Camélias (1851, variously
estate in Bradford, of the violence and depri-
translated as The Lady of the Camellias, but
vation of family life in the midst of urban
most often as Camille), Le Demi-Monde
decay. Sex offers the only pleasure, and that is
(1855), Le Fils Naturel (1858, The Natural
seen to lead to abuse and pregnancy. Dunbar
Son), Francillon (1857)
was regarded as a return to the Royal Court’s
In general, Dumas fils’ worthy studies of con- heyday of finding and championing work by
temporary problems of the bourgeois family working-class writers.
have survived much less well on stage than The film Rita Sue and Bob Too was devel-
have adaptations of the yarns of his reprobate oped from the play of the same name and
father (The Three Musketeers, The Count of incorporated sections from The Arbor. It was
Monte Cristo, etc.). However, his first play, La filmed on the council estate where Dunbar
Dame aux Camélias, remains one of the most lived, and provoked the same kind of critical
potent myths of the present day, and there is controversy as her plays: does Dunbar offer a
often a version running somewhere (even patronising and unnecessarily bleak account
though it is generally the opera version La of working-class life, or is that how it is?
Traviata). Modern permutations include Dunbar remained unimpressed and contin-
TERENCE RATTIGAN ’s Variation on a Theme, ued to live in Bradford with her children until
and echoes of the theme in TENNESSEE her tragically early death. Her plays present a
WILLIAMS ’ A Streetcar Named Desire and stark account of the frustrations and impov-
Camino Real. Recent versions by women erishment of economic deprivation, and she
writers have reassessed Camille in terms of wrote with a remarkable ear for nuances of
her relationship to society and the values of language.
the times. PAM GEMS ’ Camille made most of
the characters a good deal less high-minded TRY THESE:
(especially Alfred’s father, who becomes DELANEY ’s A Taste of Honey for obvious echoes
improbably wicked instead of improbably (Shirley is like A Taste of Honey for the 1980s);
noble) and stressed the power of money as the WESKER for affinities with the gritty social real-
driving force in society. ism of family life; CARTWRIGHT ’s Road, REID ’s
D Theatre Guide (1).qxd 2/4/07 16:08 Page 79

DURANG, Christopher 79

Joyriders; KEARSLEY and RAIF for likeminded (1974, with ALBERT INNAURATO), Titanic
contemporaries. (1974), Death Comes to Us All, Mary Agnes
(1975), When Dinah Shore Ruled the Earth
(1975, with WENDY WASSERSTEIN), Das
DUNN, Nell [1936 – ] Lusitania Songspiel (1976, with Sigourney
British novelist and dramatist Weaver), A History of the American Film
(1976, with music by Mel Marvin), The
PLAYS INCLUDE: Vietnamization of New Jersey (1977), ’Dentity
I Want (1972, with Adrian Henri; staged Crisis (1978), The Nature and Purpose of the
1982), Steaming (1981), The Little Heroine Universe (1979), Sister Mary Ignatius Explains
(1988), Cancer Tales (2001) It All for You (1979), Beyond Therapy (1981),
London-born Dunn made her name in 1963 The Actor’s Nightmare (1981), Baby with the
with the award-winning television play Up the Bathwater (1983), The Marriage of Bette and
Junction, a gritty tale of down-and-out urban Boo (1985), Laughing Wild (1987), Seeking
life that summed up a whole era. Her most Wild (1992), Sex and Longing (1996), Betty’s
famous stage play, Steaming, started out at the Summer Vacation (1998), Mrs Bob Cratchit’s
Theatre Royal, Stratford East, before transfer- Wild Xmas Binge (2002)
ring with great success to the West End, and to
Broadway and being filmed. Hailed on both Durang’s early works were primarily parodies
sides of the sexual politics divide, this appar- and often written in collaboration with fellow
ent celebration of female solidarity, set in a Yale Drama School graduates ALBERT
public Turkish bath threatened with closure, INNAURATO, WENDY WASSERSTEIN and
posed more problems about voyeurism and Sigourney Weaver. On his own, he wrote the
the male gaze than it answered, and could be zany comic circus, A History of the American
seen as a more populist successor to Film, in which a variety of actors play screen
MAUREEN DUFFY ’s Rites without the moral icons from Cagney to Bogie to – most memo-
clout. The Little Heroine, staged by the rably – Anthony Perkins in Psycho. Latterly the
Nuffield Theatre Southampton, is another tone has darkened. In Sister Mary Ignatius
variation on exploring the vulnerabilities – Explains It All for You, four former students of
and strengths – of women, this time through an authoritarian nun return to her classroom
the example of a young heroin junkie and her to exact revenge for her wrongheaded instruc-
successful kicking of the habit. tion. The Nature and Purpose of the Universe,
Baby with the Bathwater and The Marriage of
TRY THESE: Bette and Boo are blackly and anarchically
FORNES ’ Fefu and Her Friends and funny depictions of households in crisis. Bette
MACDONALD ’s When I Was a Girl I Used to and Boo in particular wreaks wonderful havoc
Scream and Shout for other female intimacies with traditional ideas of ‘family drama’.
unveiled; GEMS ’ Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi, Whether you regard him as the quintessential
WASSERSTEIN ’s Uncommon Women for women American ‘diaper dramatist’ – Benedict
under pressure finding support in each other; Nightingale’s term for what he sees as the
C. P. TAYLOR ’s Withdrawal Symptoms takes with- terminal self-absorption of Durang and his lit-
drawal from heroin and from Empire together, in erary peers – or as a tough-minded satirist
a fine study of the personal and the political. lashing out at his Catholic upbringing, Durang
is an idiosyncratic absurdist who writes with
bracing irreverence about such dark subjects
DURANG, Christopher [1949 – ] as the destructive pieties of Catholicism, the
American dramatist and actor ideals of family life and seductive cultural fash-
ions. In Britain recent revivals of Beyond
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Therapy, a wry depiction of two men and a
I Don’t Generally Like Poetry But Have You
woman attempting to negotiate their sexual
Read ‘Trees’ (1972, with ALBERT INNAURATO),
identities in the face of their therapists, have
The Mitzi Gaynor Story, or Gyp (1973, with
drawn attention to a neglected voice
ALBERT INNAURATO), The Idiots Karamazov
D Theatre Guide (1).qxd 2/4/07 16:08 Page 80

80 DURAS, Marguerite
TRY THESE: a stream of discourse, with questions left
O’MALLEY ’s Once a Catholic for contrasting take- about motives or ideas or even identity. Duras
offs of Catholic dogma; TALLY for another is concerned with the processes of the artist’s
Playwrights’ Horizons-schooled author fuelled by own mind rather than those of society, and
familial disorder; AYCKBOURN , CRAZE ’s with problems of language, rather than ideas
Atonement, DE FILIPPO ’s Ducking Out, or a story line.
FEIFFER ’s Grown Ups for those domestic inter-
sections where home and hatred meet; GUARE ’s Savannah Bay
House of Blue Leaves for antic comedy featuring This ninety-minute two-handed Proustian
nuns and an impending visit from the Pope; play was written for Madeleine Renaud, who
Durang has written a number of short plays draw- played an ageing actress visited each day by a
ing on, amongst others, O’NEILL , TENNESSEE girl who may be her grandchild, and with
WILLIAMS , Medea, SHAWN ’s Aunt Dan and Lemon whom she reconstructs the story of her
and GIRADOUX ’s The Madwoman of Chaillot. daughter Savannah, who met a lover, gave
birth, and later drowned in Savannah Bay in
Siam. Both characters obsessively relive this
DURAS, Marguerite [1904 – 96] story and gradually unfold it in a dream-like
French novelist, dramatist and writer of screen- and elliptical text, with recurring images of
plays two lovers on a white rock; it has strong
resemblances to Eden Cinema, where again
PLAYS INCLUDE:
there is a piecing together of memories by an
Le Square (1965, The Square), La Musica
old and a young woman.
(1965), Les Eaux et les Forêts (1965, The
Waters and the Forests), Le Shaga (1967),
TRY THESE:
L’Amante anglaise (1968, A Place Without
CIXOUS , who was also born in a French colony,
Doors or The Lovers of Viorne), Suzanna
and who writes about what was formerly French
Adler (1971), India Song (1973), L’Éden-
Indo-China, but with quite different intent;
Cinéma (1977, Eden Cinema), Savannah Bay
BECKETT for the nature of memory; COWARD ’s
(1984)
Private Lives for an aftermath to divorce to
Duras, born near Saigon in what was then contrast with La Musica.
French Indo-China, used her recollections of
these childhood years for her novel Le Barrage
Contre le Pacifique (The Sea Wall, 1950), her DÜRRENMATT, Friedrich [1921 – 90]
play Eden Cinema, and her autobiographical Swiss dramatist
novel L’Amant (The Lover, 1984). It is charac-
PLAYS INCLUDE:
teristic of her methods to rework material
It Is Written (1947), The Blind Man (1948),
into different forms and to try to break down
Romulus the Great (1949), The Marriage of
the boundaries between media. Her first play,
Mr Mississippi (1952), An Angel Comes to
The Square, was taken from her novel of the
Babylon (1953), The Visit (1956), The
same name; A Place Without Doors is the
Physicists (1962), The Meteor (1966), King
second version of a play about a horrifying
John (1968), Play Strindberg (1969)
real-life murder, and she turned it into a novel
as well, treating the story from a different After studying at the Universities of Bern and
point of view each time. Most of her charac- Zurich, Dürrenmatt decided to commit him-
ters are women, and they suffer; they are often self full-time to writing, becoming one of the
in love, about to take leave of their lovers, or leading dramatists in the German language
abandoned by them. The plays are not linear, and achieving worldwide fame as a dramatic
but unfold gradually like petals and the theorist. Clearly influenced by the pre-war
dialogue is full of hesitations, pauses, frag- German Expressionists and by  BRECHT ,
ments of memory, ellipses, and the sudden Dürrenmatt’s sense of theatricality is allied to
recollection of violent or painful events. The an acute perception of the moral dilemmas of
story is not explained; sometimes there is only the contemporary world. But unlike Brecht,
D Theatre Guide (1).qxd 2/4/07 16:08 Page 81

DYER, Charles 81

Dürrenmatt’s ability to chill in the midst of DYER, Charles (Raymond) [1928 – ]


grotesque comedy, the clarity with which he British dramatist, actor and director
raises great issues of personal and public
PLAYS INCLUDE:
morality, lead not towards an argument for
Clubs Are Sometimes Trumps (1948), Rattle of
political change, but towards despair. And
a Simple Man (1962), Staircase (1966),
although his characters frequently achieve a
Mother Adam (1971)
transcending dignity and even heroism, they
do so in a world that renders individual action Now virtually forgotten, Dyer’s major plays,
and sacrifice irrelevant. Although much of his Rattle of a Simple Man (about a prostitute and
work is built on the form of classical Greek a football fan) and Staircase, handled subjects
tragedy, this sense of individual irrelevance and characters then rarely treated in theatre –
denies the possibility of catharsis. To Staircase was extensively cut by the censor –
Dürrenmatt, the human condition is and centre on dependence and our attempt to
unchangeable and meaningless, and best escape loneliness. This is not a theatre of
examined through sardonic humour. action but of need. In his characters Dyer
shows the audience their own inadequacies
The Visit and fears; but while stripping away self-
A bitter fable of greed and human weakness, illusion he also offers hope and a lot of laughs.
its highly convoluted plot revolves round the
return of an ageing millionaire Claire Staircase
Zachanassian to her economically depressed This two-hander set in a Brixton barber’s
hometown, raising local expectations of a shop presents the mutual dependence of two
substantial act of charity. However, the mil- middle-aged homosexuals: Harry, a totally
lionaire is bent on vengeance on the town’s bald barber, and Charlie Dyer, the ex-actor he
most honoured citizen, Alfred III, who picked up in a teashop years before, who faces
wronged her many years before. He denied a summons after being caught cross-dressing
that her unborn child was his and bribed two by police raiding a club. Charlie has created a
men to assert that she was no better than a more successful fantasy life, peopled by char-
prostitute, with the result that she left the acters who are all anagrams of his own name,
town destitute and in disgrace. Since then, she to cover a period he spent in jail on a sex
has diligently whored and married her way to charge, and clings to the fact that he was once
a fortune, and the price she demands for the married and fathered a child. Harry is self-
town to share her wealth is the death of disgusted by his baldness and the physical side
Alfred. At first the townspeople refuse, but of life. The characters fascinate and repel at
money eventually talks and they strangle him the same time, totally convincing yet offering
during a celebration of the town’s new wealth. a parallel of the struggle in any relationship.
The old woman gives her money to the town, Dyer’s work is totally unsentimental. At the
and is cheered on her departure. end of the published text Dyer suggests that
Harry, perhaps even the summons, perhaps
TRY THESE: all we have seen, exist only in Charlie’s imagi-
For expressionist influences on Dürrenmatt’s style, nation. The play was filmed in 1969 with
Georg Kaiser, Ernst Toller and WEDEKIND ; for Richard Burton and Rex Harrison.
comparisons with modern German writing,
FRISCH , Manfred Karge, KROETZ ; MÜLLER , TRY THESE:
SCHIMMELPFENNIG ; IBSEN ’s An Enemy of the FIERSTEIN , GENET , KRAMER and SHERMAN
People for the dubious motivations of townspeo- for treatments of male homosexual relationships;
ple; MEYER ’s Etta Jenks also features a heroine for two-handed relationships, PUIG and
who wreaks a terrible revenge on her original KEMPINSKI ; GEMS ’ transvestite farce Aunt Mary
oppressors; SHAW ’s Mrs Warren’s Profession for and the work of BUSCH and LUDLAM for
another successful prostitute. images of the seemingly outrageous, expressing
questions about society’s conventional images of
gender.
E Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:10 Page 82

 
E 
EDGAR, David [1948 – ] imperialist past, and the wave of immigration
British dramatist in the 1970s, it juxtaposes a politician at the
moment of a by-election with soldiers of 1947
PLAYS INCLUDE:
discussing the independence of India. In the
A Fart for Europe (1973, with ‘HOWARD
contemporary scenes, Destiny explores the
BRENTON ), Excuses, Excuses (1973), Dick
relation of parliamentary politics to fascist
Deterred (1974), Saigon Rose (1976), Blood
groups, and also the way in which immigra-
Sports (1976), Destiny (1976), Wreckers
tion becomes a scapegoat for the problems of
(1977), Our Own People (1977), Mary Barnes
British society. Written as a response to the
(1979), The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs (1979),
rise in National Front activity in the mid-
Teendreams (1979, with Susan Todd), The
1970s, a period in which the Anti-Nazi League
Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby
(which Edgar was involved with) was a central
(1980, adapted from Dickens), Maydays
campaign for the Left, the play acts as a warn-
(1983), Entertaining Strangers (1985, revised
ing about the conditions that give rise to
version 1987), That Summer (1987),
totalitarianism, and draws an analogy with
Heartlanders 1989, with ‘STEPHEN BILL and
the position of the Jews in Germany. The Life
‘ANNE DEVLIN ), The Shape of the Table
and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Edgar’s
(1990), The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr
greatest success, was developed over a long
Hyde (1991, from Stevenson), Pentecost
period with the cast, who thoroughly
(1994), Albert Speer (2000), The Prisoner’s
researched and devised the play with Edgar.
Dilemma (2001)
The result was a collaborative project and a
One of Britain’s major dramatists, Edgar has conviction in the performances and produc-
written over fifty plays for both radical tour- tion that is rarely seen in mainstream theatre.
ing companies and the National Theatre and Maydays, an epic account of dissent in Britain
the RSC. He is active in socialist debates on and Europe from 1945 to the 1980s, was the
theatre and culture, and established the highly first new play the RSC produced on the main
successful MA in playwriting at Birmingham stage at the Barbican, and established an
University. Edgar was born in Birmingham, of important precedent. Edgar has said that the
a theatrical family, and much of his early work complicated set, which includes a moving
was written for political theatre groups train and a gate at Greenham Common, was
(Wreckers was written for 7:84, Teendreams written in as a strategy, so that the play tech-
for Monstrous Regiment) or in response to nically had to be put on at the main stage at
political events (Dick Deterred followed the Barbican and could not be relegated to the
Nixon’s part in Watergate, A Fart for Europe small Pit Theatre, where new writing invari-
was written as an anti-EEC polemic at the ably ended up.
time of Britain’s entry into the EEC). As a ‘ANN JELLICOE invited Edgar to collabo-
socialist dramatist Edgar has chosen to base rate in a theatre community project in Dorset
his intervention in the theatre, believing that that became Entertaining Strangers. Based on
television is an isolating experience, while research into the history of Dorchester, and
theatre has to be experienced in a collective devised by and for the local community, it was
audience. given a production in revised form by the
Destiny established Edgar as a major National Theatre. The Shape of the Table,
dramatist. An analysis of fascism and racism although considered a static, talking-head
in British culture through its links with the piece by some (most of the action takes place
E Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:10 Page 83

EICHELBERGER, Ethyl 83

around a large conference table), is a fascinat- (1993), The Mill on the Floss (1994, from
ing attempt to analyse the realpolitik behind George Eliot), War and Peace (1996, from
momentous changes in eastern Europe at the Tolstoy), Mother Teresa is Dead (2002)
end of 1989, in an imagined capital not a mil-
lion miles away from Prague. Edgar followed Edmundson, a Manchester drama graduate, is
this with two more plays directly concerned best known for her imaginative adaptations of
with the remaking of Europe after the collapse nineteenth-century blockbuster novels for
of communism: Pentecost takes the discovery Shared Experience. Apart from the sheer prag-
of a mural in a church in an anarchic eastern matic difficulties she surmounts in filleting
European country as the staring point for an the novels to playable size, Edmundson’s abil-
exploration of the ethical, moral, aesthetic ity to discover dramatic devices to express key
and political questions associated with the issues, such as having three Maggies in Mill on
making and remaking of countries; in The the Floss, marks her out as one of the major
Prisoner’s Dilemma, he is concerned with adapters of her time. In her original play The
ethnic cleansing and the search for a political Clearing Edmundson tackles modern-day
settlement. In the gap between Pentecost and issues of ethnic cleansing through the Irish sit-
The Prisoner’s Dilemma, Edgar returned to uation in the 1650s: an Anglo-Irish marriage
history and the story of Hitler’s architect and collapses in the face of the brutalities of
industrial organiser Albert Speer to examine Cromwell’s troops. Mother Teresa is Dead tack-
some of the roots of the contemporary events les another issue of the colonial legacy. Jane
and their ramifications. has left her husband and son in England and
gone to help in a children’s refuge in India. Her
TRY THESE: husband’s arrival crystallises important
‘CHURCHILL employs a similar juxtaposition of debates about the limits of charity, how privi-
past and present to that of Destiny in Cloud Nine; leged Westerners can transcend the domestic
‘BRECHT is the effective originator of the dialec- and engage with a wider world and the extent
tical theatre practised by ‘BRENTON , Edgar, to which the woman remains the victim of
‘BOND , ‘TREVOR GRIFFITHS and ‘JOHN patriarchy even as she tries to fight the worst
MCGRATH ; Saigon Rose’s treatment of venereal effects of global capitalism.
disease anticipates AIDS plays such as ‘KRAMER ’s
The Normal Heart; Mary Barnes’ treatment of schiz- TRY THESE:
ophrenia links it with ‘CRAZE ’s Shona, ‘KUSHNER ’s Homebody/Kabul for an American
‘STOPPARD ’s Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, and take on the situation in Mother Teresa is Dead;
‘HEATHCOTE WILLIAMS ’ AC/DC though their ‘HARE ’s A Map of the World for an earlier view;
approaches are very different; ‘MERCER ’s In Two ‘BRENTON ’s The Romans in Britain,
Minds for women and madness; ‘ALRAWI ’s A ‘MCGUINNESS ’s Mutabilitie for parallels to The
Child in the Heart is an exploration of British Clearing; for divided families, ‘SHAKESPEARE ’s
racism and National Front allegiances in London’s Romeo and Juliet; ‘ENSLER and ‘KANE for
East End; ‘BRENTON and Tariq Ali’s Moscow Gold responses to the Balkans; for other Shared
and ‘CHURCHILL ’s Mad Forest for plays emerging Experience adaptations Mike Alfreds’ Bleak House
from glasnost; ‘DANIELS’ The Devil’s Gateway and and A Handful of Dust, Giles Havergal’s The Heat of
‘REID ’s My Name Shall I Tell You My Name both the Day (with Felicity Browne) and Pamela (with
use Greenham Common; ‘DE ANGELIS ’s Soft Fidelis Morgan), Polly Teale’s Jane Eyre and After
Vengeance for a hero of the anti-apartheid strug- Mrs Rochester.
gle also featured in The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs.

EICHELBERGER, Ethyl [1945 – 90]


EDMUNDSON, Helen [1964 – ] American actor, dramatist and director
British dramatist PLAYS/PERFORMANCES INCLUDE:
PLAYS INCLUDE: Phèdre (1977), Neferti-ti (1978), Medea
Ladies in the Lift (1988), Flying (1990), Anna (1980), Minne the Maid (1981), Elizabeth I
Karenina (1992, from Tolstoy), The Clearing and Mary Stuart (1982), Marie Antoinette
E Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:10 Page 84

84 ELDER, Lonne
(1982), Hamlette (1984), Medusa (1985), ‘LORRAINE HANSBERRY , and Douglas Turner
Leer (1985), Casanova (1985), Rip Van Ward, whose poetic realism was to shape his
Winkle (1986), The Lincolns (1988), Ariadne work. Elder worked as an actor before making
Obnoxious (1988), Herd of Buffalo (1989), his mark as a writer, performing as Bobo in
Das Vedanya Mama (1990) the landmark 1959 Broadway production of
‘HANSBERRY ’s A Raisin in the Sun, and as
Ethyl Eichelberger (born James Roy Clem in Ward’s Day of Absence. From 1965 to
Eichelberger in Pekin, Illinois) became con- 1967, Elder attended the Yale School of
vinced of the power of cross-dressing on stage Drama on a scholarship for filmmaking and
to make a political statement, to force audi- playwriting. He joined the Negro Ensemble
ences to re-examine their notions of sexual Company in 1967, as head of the Playwrights
stereotypes. His plays are dense, filled with Unit. Shortly after his successful play
obscure facts, puns, double entendres, and Ceremonies in Dark Old Men, Elder moved to
flexibility for ad-libs; the pace was dizzying, California to forge a career as a screenwriter.
displaying a frenetic style with echoes of With several Hollywood films to his credit,
vaudeville, burlesque and the Yiddish stage. Elder organised a symposium, in 1972, to
He juxtaposed dancing on pointe with address his concerns over the portrayal of
acrobatics and cartwheels, added accordion- African-Americans on film and television.
accompanied songs to nearly all perform- Although Elder returned to writing for the
ances, and incorporated fire-eating into his theatre, his reputation as a dramatist is largely
last plays. His plays remain unpublished, as it based on the award-winning Ceremonies in
is widely felt that their impact on the printed Dark Old Men. Set in a Harlem barbershop,
page could not approach the dynamic and the play chronicles the struggles of the Parker
uniqueness of their onstage incarnations. family in their efforts to overcome the debili-
tating effects of ghetto life. The family patri-
TRY THESE: arch, who let his wife work herself to death to
‘BUSCH for cross-dressing; ‘BOGOSIAN for support the family, must now face the legacy
monologue in the camp tradition; ‘BARTLETT for he has left to his children, as his unemployed
a British comparison; ‘LUDLAM for influence; Leer sons and bread-winning daughter choose
and Hamlette are adaptations of ‘SHAKESPEARE . divergent, and sometimes fatal, paths to their
dreams.

ELDER, Lonne [1931 – 96] TRY THESE:


American dramatist ‘FULLER ’s Zooman and the Sign for an examina-
tion of the brutalisation of the ghetto;
PLAYS INCLUDE:
‘BALDWIN ’s The Amen Corner has a Harlem set-
A Hysterical Turtle in a Rabbit Race (1961),
ting, as does Story in Harlem Slang, one of three
Kissing Rattlesnakes Can Be Fun (1966),
Zora Neale Hurston short stories adapted by
Seven Comes Up, Seven Comes Down (1966),
‘WOLFE in Spunk.
Charades on East Fourth Street (1967),
Ceremonies in Dark Old Men (1969),
Splendid Mummer (1988), King (1990, book
ELDRIDGE, David [1973 – ]
of the musical, lyrics by Maya Angelou and
Alistair Beaton, music by Richard Blackford)
British dramatist
PLAYS INCLUDE:
An African-American dramatist who refused
Serving It Up (1996), A Week with Tony
‘to bend from the truth’ in his plays, Elder
(1996), Summer Begins (1997), Falling
achieved celebrity in the 1960s when black
(1999), Under the Blue Sky (2000)
playwrights were finally making their voices
heard. Through his political activities for the Eldridge wrote his first play, Serving It Up, as
NAACP (National Association for the a student at Exeter University. He has
Advancement of Colored People), Elder met described it as ‘a pretty angry play’ that grew
such notables as ‘ LANGSTON HUGHES , out of his fury with ‘the Tory government,
E Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:10 Page 85

ELLIS, Michael J. 85

with the Sloane rangers and PC types I was be given star productions from time to time
studying alongside and with myself ’. His but it already shows the pernicious effect on
major success so far has been Under the Blue his work of Eliot’s decision to adapt contem-
Sky, in which three pairs of teachers at differ- porary theatrical forms: there is an uneasy
ent stages of their lives confront individual match between the poetic impulse and the
moments of choice. The format is similar to drawing-room form which becomes more
‘SCHNITZLER ’s La Ronde, in that each pair is pronounced in his last two plays, and these
linked to the others, though not in this case by are (justly) seldom revived. The success of the
moving on from one partner to another, but musical Cats, based on his Old Possum’s Book
by shared acquaintanceship. Eldridge’s great of Practical Cats, indicates another route that
skill lies in creating an entirely believable might have led Eliot, an admirer of the music
world out of these three couples and their hall, to find the popular audience he craved.
attempts to establish their relationships
through thematic interlinking to wider issues, TRY THESE:
effectively blending modern-day terrorism, ‘AESCHYLUS , ‘EURIPIDES , ‘SOPHOCLES , who
fantasies of wartime heroism and the realities provided models for Eliot’s plays, generally in
of World War I in an apparently slight edifice, terms of the use of the chorus, and specifically in
which is actually as tightly structured as respect of particular plots; medieval drama, partic-
‘CHEKHOV . ularly Everyman, for the inspiration for Murder in
the Cathedral, ‘FRY for contemporary verse dra-
TRY THESE: mas; Paul Webb’s Four Knights in Knaresborough for
For teachers, ‘GODBER , ‘RATTIGAN , ‘RECKORD , the later life of the knights from Murder in the
‘NIGEL WILLIAMS ; ‘TREVOR GRIFFITHS ’ Country Cathedral; Tom Courtenay’s Pretending To Be Me for
was the inspiration for A Week with Tony. the poet Philip Larkin; ‘HARRISON and Ted
Hughes, particularly Peter Brook’s production of
Orghast, for contemporary poets in the theatre.
ELIOT, T. S.
( Thomas Stearns) [1888 – 1965]
Anglo-American poet and dramatist ELLIS, Michael J. [mid-1950s – ]
PLAYS INCLUDE:
British dramatist
Sweeney Agonistes (1926), The Rock (1934), PLAYS INCLUDE:
Murder in the Cathedral (1935), The Family A Temporary Rupture (1983), Starliner 2001,
Reunion (1939), The Cocktail Party (1949), A Soap Odyssey (1984), Chameleon (1985),
The Confidential Clerk (1953), The Elder Sticky Fingers (1989)
Statesman (1958)
An East Ender of Jamaican parents, Ellis
One of the great poets of the twentieth picked up various writing awards whilst still at
century (he won the 1948 Nobel Prize for school. Temba toured Chameleon for a year to
Literature), Eliot led a mid-century revival of enthusiastic houses, despite a lukewarm recep-
verse drama, which ultimately failed because tion from reviewers. It is easy to see why there
it assumed that the ‘poetic’ in the theatre was was this discrepancy, however: Ellis’s office-
a function of the text rather than the whole bound two-hander is not especially sophisti-
theatrical process. The most innovative of his cated, but it is unusually satirical about its
plays is Sweeney Agonistes, an unfinished piece leading character, the awful, social-climbing
which has proved very effective in perform- Benjamin, and it is a brave and cautionary tale
ance, with its jazz rhythms and dialogue that against buying into the system and against
anticipates the early ‘PINTER . Murder in the ignorance. A Temporary Rupture carries on in
Cathedral is probably the most successful of like vein as a sprightly dig at the macho insen-
the plays because the historical subject sanc- sitivity of young black males, with a jilted girl-
tions the use of non-naturalistic dialogue, but friend getting her own back on the returning
the verse of The Family Reunion is probably former lover and father of her child. Both
the most flexible. The Cocktail Party tends to plays would certainly repay further viewing.
E Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:10 Page 86

86 ELTON, Ben
TRY THESE: subtly, political, comic plays, as he demon-
‘MARCHANT ’s The Lucky Ones is also an office- strated with the success of Popcorn, based on
based saga of contrasting attitudes to ‘making it’; his own novel. It is an examination of the
for other dramatists writing about being black in glamorisation of gore that pitches a
Britain, ‘COOKE , ‘IKOLI , ‘KAY , ‘MATURA , Tarantino-like film director into a truly
‘MOFFATT , ‘PHILLIPS , ‘PINNOCK , ‘RECKORD , murderous situation. The play explores the
‘RUDET , ‘ZEPHANIAH ; for contrasting styles, complex issues around why violence is popu-
‘WALCOTT and ‘WHITE . lar entertainment, how far the media actually
influence what people do and the social
responsibilities of the entertainment industry.
ELTON, Ben [1959 – ] His musical The Beautiful Game, focusing on
British dramatist, scriptwriter and comedian a football team, deals with young people
growing up in Northern Ireland at the begin-
PLAYS INCLUDE:
ning of the troubles and how sectarianism
Gasping (1990), Silly Cow (1991), Popcorn
impacts on ordinary adolescent lives.
(1996), The Beautiful Game (2000, with
music by Andrew Lloyd Webber), We Will
TRY THESE:
Rock You (2002, script of the Queen musical)
‘CHURCHILL ’s Not ...Not ...Not ...Not ...Not
Born in Catford, Elton studied drama at Enough Oxygen anticipates Gasping by nearly
Manchester University, where he wrote and twenty years; ‘BRENTON and ‘HARE ’s Pravda
directed several plays, some of which were (which is also a fairly vitriolic swipe at tabloid
taken to the Edinburgh Festival. On leaving journalism), ‘CHURCHILL’ s Serious Money,
university, he quickly carved out a successful ‘LUCIE ’s Fashion, ‘JEFFREYS ’ Valued Friends for
career as a comedy scriptwriter and stand-up other political satires of 1980s values; ‘REID ’s Tea
comedian, co-writing the hugely successful in a China Cup and ‘MARIE JONES for Belfast
television series The Young Ones (with Rik plays with a specifically women-centred focus;
Mayall and Lise Mayer) and three series of ‘FINNEGAN for a more stylised, many-faceted
Blackadder (with Richard Curtis). The blend exploration of Northern Ireland’s religious and
of social comment and prurient humour both political loyalties.
in his routines, which he performed live and
on television, and in his scripts brought him a
huge, young audience. Elton’s commitment to ELYOT, Kevin
social and environmental issues – explored in British dramatist
his first novel, Stark – were evident in his first
PLAYS INCLUDE:
West End play, Gasping. This was a sharp,
Coming Clean (1982), Consent (1989), The
bitterly funny comedy about a vast multina-
Moonstone (1990, from Wilkie Collins),
tional company introducing the concept of
Artists and Admirers (1992 from
purified ‘designer air’, and ending up privatis-
‘OSTROVSKY ), My Night with Reg (1994),
ing oxygen. Despite a tendency to indulge
The Day I Stood Still (1998), Mouth to Mouth
himself with gags at the expense of plot, Elton
(2001)
acquitted himself well in his debut, although
some critics thought it would work better on Birmingham-born Elyot’s main claim to fame
television. The savaging meted out to Silly is the multiple award winning My Night with
Cow, which followed Gasping, was altogether Reg, a brilliantly economical account of the
easier to justify. Depicting the deserved down- devastation AIDS inflicts on a small group of
fall of a gutter-tabloid critic, Silly Cow was gay friends. At first we believe that the action
overwritten, full of improbable holes, and suf- is continuous between scenes but gradually
fered from the dilution of its main theme with we realise that the seasons have changed and
some indulgent, affectionate broadsides at the the major events have occurred offstage: char-
pretensions of actors. Nevertheless, Elton acters come and go, relationships are formed
remains a sharp, popular writer who is able to and decay and are replaced by others.
command large audiences for overtly, if not Gradually it emerges that the offstage Reg has
E Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:10 Page 87

ETHEREGE, George 87

infected virtually all the characters with as he lies unconscious in hospital dying of
HIV/AIDS. Unrequited love blights the pro- AIDS, and Necessary Targets, about two
tagonist’s life but his routine sexual conser- American women in Bosnia. Ensler’s most
vatism cannot save him. All this may suggest famous play, the Vagina Monologues, started
an evening of unrelieved gloom but Elyot has as an off-off-Broadway one-person show and
a sure grasp of narrative and his story emerges has mutated into an extraordinary worldwide
out of the everyday minutiae of domestic success, usually played by a three-woman cast,
comedy. His characters are not supermen, nor often including theatre or film stars or non-
are they gay stereotypes, just people trying to theatrical celebrities. Based on Ensler’s inter-
live their lives and coming to terms with some views with many women, it is a powerful and
unpalatable facts. In The Day I Stood Still, the often funny staging of feminist concerns
arrival of an unexpected visitor acts as a cata- about the position of women in the contem-
lyst for revelations about how a group of lives porary world. Inevitably much of the material
have intertwined, nearly connected and gone deals with the abuse of women in wars and in
off at a variety of tangents. Mouth to Mouth domestic violence but it is not an anti-male
has a central character who has to hear about polemic, rather a powerful reminder that
everyone else’s problems but is never allowed despite the advances of feminism in some
to voice his own. Elyot makes the dramatist areas of some societies, there is still a massive
character in Mouth to Mouth declare that he is need for action against the systematic abuse
‘always being accused of writing the same of women. The play’s success has enabled
thing’. However, Elyot’s craftsmanship and Ensler to fund-raise for women’s charities, to
control of his medium is more than adequate publicise human rights abuses and to create
compensation for the family resemblances her own campaigning body, V-Day.
between the plays with their deceptive
chronologies, revelations about the past and TRY THESE:
unfulfilled central characters. ‘ELYOT , ‘FIERSTEIN , ‘KRAMER , ‘KUSHNER ,
‘RAVENHILL for some responses to AIDS;
TRY THESE: ‘ADSHEAD ’s Bogus Women, ‘EDGAR , and
‘FIERSTEIN, ‘NOËL GREIG, ‘HARVEY, ‘KONDOLEON, ‘KANE ’s Blasted for responses to the Balkans;
‘KRAMER, ‘KUSHNER, ‘RAVENHILL, ‘SHERMAN for ‘CLARK ’s Whose Life Is It Anyway for hospital
varieties of gay experience and some responses to drama; ‘CHURCHILL , ‘DANIELS , ‘DE ANGELIS ,
AIDS; ‘CHEKHOV (particularly Three Sisters) for ‘GEMS , ‘WANDOR for versions of feminism;
structure: ‘IBSEN for the explosive return of the Mum’s the Word by Linda A. Carson. Jill Daum,
outsider; ‘BECKETT’s Waiting for Godot and Alison Kelly, Robin Nicol, Barbara Pollard and
‘ODETS’ Waiting for Lefty for absent title Deborah Williams for a softer version of contem-
characters. porary women’s experience.

ENSLER, Eve [1953 – ] ETHEREGE, George [1634 – 91]


American dramatist and feminist campaigner English dramatist
PLAYS INCLUDE: PLAYS INCLUDE:
Scooncat (1987), Floating Rhoda and the Glue The Comical Revenge: or, Love in a Tub
Man (1993), Extraordinary Measures (1995), (1664), She Would If She Could (1668), The
Vagina Monologues (1996), Conviction Man of Mode (1676)
(1999), Lemonade (1999), Necessary Targets
Etherege has some claims to have invented
(2001)
what we now call Restoration comedy in his
Ensler’s plays are concerned with social and plays, which present fashionable, witty, amoral
political issues, from the early Scooncat, about characters engaged in a round of sexual
a man dominated by technology, to intrigues in a recognisable version of contem-
Extraordinary Measures, about the ways in porary London society. His own life could
which a man’s family and friends react to him have been a model for one of his characters:
E Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:10 Page 88

88 EURIPIDES
his actress mistress, Elizabeth Barry, also had a Women (c. 420 BC), Andromache (c. 419 BC),
liaison with the Earl of Rochester (identified Heracles (c. 416 BC), The Women of Troy (415
as the original of Dorimant in The Man of BC), Electra (413 BC), Helen (412 BC),
Mode); his outrageous behaviour as ambassa- Iphigenia in Tauris (c. 411 BC), Ion (c. 411
dor in Regensburg scandalised the inhabitants BC), Orestes (408 BC), The Phoenician
and he ended his career by joining James II in Women (c. 408 BC), The Bacchae (produced
exile in Paris where he died. c. 405 BC), Iphigenia in Aulis (405 BC),
The contemporary canvas is broadest in Cyclops (date unknown); Rhesus is also
The Comical Revenge, where the humiliation attributed to Euripides
of a venereally diseased French valet at the
hands of English female servants gives the play Euripides wrote over ninety plays during a
its title, and contrasts with three other plots, long career but was less immediately popular
including a rather more ‘heroic’ one largely than his contemporary, ‘SOPHOCLES. His sub-
conducted in rhyming couplets. Etherege, like jects are those of the other Athenian tragic
other Restoration dramatists, is much more dramatists – stories of the gods and heroes,
open about women’s sexuality than dramatists particularly those relating to the Trojan wars,
of many other periods, though his view can be but his treatment of them is more domestic
inferred, not unfairly, from the title of his sec- and more sceptical, almost realistic and socio-
ond play, She Would If She Could. As with logical rather than religious and philosophical.
‘WILLIAM WYCHERLEY, the difficulty is knowing It was probably this aspect of his work,
where celebration of a society ends and criti- together with his penchant for experiments in
cism of it begins. Particularly in The Man of form, that made him a controversial figure.
Mode, the only one of his plays to appear reg- The Bacchae, a very powerful treatment of the
ularly in the modern repertory, the absence of relationship between the Apollonian and the
an obvious authorial point of view and Dionysiac impulses, was influential on various
explicit moral judgements leads to contradic- experimental theatres in the twentieth century
tory evaluations of the characters and of the (e.g. the Performance Group’s Dionysus in
play. Clearly Sir Fopling Flutter, the man of 1969) and continues to inspire dramatists with
mode of the title, is a comic butt because of his its theme of the difficulty of balancing the
ridiculous pretensions to be fashionable, but impulse to ecstasy with the need for restraint.
the energetic protagonist Dorimant’s dealings The National Theatre staged a version by
with various potential and actual mistresses Colin Teevan in 2002. In the last decade
and wives are much more open to scrutiny. London has seen productions of more than
This can be regarded either as masterly ambi- half of his extant plays with excellent versions
guity or as poor dramatic technique. of Medea and Women of Troy by Kenneth
McLeish and of Alcestis by Ted Hughes.
TRY THESE:
Other Restoration comic writers, such as ‘BEHN , TRY THESE:
‘CONGREVE and ‘WYCHERLEY ; other writers of ‘AESCHYLUS and ‘SOPHOCLES wrote the other
comedy of manners, such as ‘COWARD , surviving Greek tragedies; see ‘ARTAUD for a
‘GOLDSMITH , ‘SHERIDAN , ‘WILDE ; ‘BOND ’s theory of theatre with close connections to The
Restoration uses conventions and themes derived Bacchae; ‘CHURCHILL and ‘LAN (Mouthful of
from the practice of Restoration writers to make Birds), ‘ELIOT , ‘GIRAUDOUX , ‘HARRISON ,
modern points. ‘O’NEILL and ‘SOYINKA are among modern
playwrights who have tackled themes drawn
from Greek drama; ‘DUFFY and ‘LAVERY have
EURIPIDES [484 – 406/7 BC] both adapted The Bacchae from a lesbian feminist
Greek dramatist perspective; The Greeks, John Barton and Kenneth
Cavander’s 1980 RSC production, used seven of
SURVIVING PLAYS INCLUDE:
Euripides’ plays in its marathon cycle of the Trojan
Alcestis (438 BC), Medea (431 BC), The
wars, but Barton’s Greek cycle Tantalus did not
Children of Heracles (c. 429 BC), Hippolytus
draw directly on Euripides.
(428 BC), Hecuba (c. 425 BC), The Suppliant
F Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:12 Page 89

 
F 
FAGON, Alfred [1937 – 86] FANNIN, Hilary [1962 – ]
Jamaican-born British dramatist Irish actor and dramatist
PLAYS INCLUDE: PLAYS INCLUDE:
11 Josephine House (1972), Death of a Black Mackerel Sky (1997), Sleeping Around (1998,
Man (1975), Four Hundred Pounds (1983), with Stephen Greenhorn, ‘ABI MORGAN and
Lonely Cowboy (1985) ‘MARK RAVENHILL )
Fagon emigrated to Britain in 1955, worked Fannin appeared in a successful RTE comedy
on the railways and served in the army before series, Upwardly Mobile, and has written
emerging as a professional actor and drama- several works for radio. Her Mackerel Sky is a
tist in the 1970s. He died while out jogging semi-autobiographical study of a comically
and, before any of his friends found out, was dysfunctional Dublin family in the 1970s.
buried anonymously because the police Sleeping Around is a modern version of
believed he was a vagrant. As his subsequent ‘SCHNITZLER ’s La Ronde.
Times obituary put it, ‘his plays take as their
theme the relationship between the cultures TRY THESE:
of the English and Caribbean peoples, their ‘HARE ’s The Blue Room for another modern
friendships and conflicts’. This theme is char- version of La Ronde; ‘O’CASEY ’s Juno and the
acteristically treated in the form of a comedy Paycock for the dysfunctional Dublin family;
of manners with an underlying seriousness, as ‘IBSEN , ‘O’NEILL , ‘STRINDBERG for less comic
in 11 Josephine House with its black family dysfunctional families.
trying to adjust to the temptations of English
life, particularly as manifested in the white
woman who causes the black preacher’s fall FARQUHAR, George [1678 – 1707]
from grace. In Four Hundred Pounds TeeCee’s Irish dramatist
sudden refusal to pot the black in a snooker
PLAYS INCLUDE:
game on ideological grounds loses him and
Love and a Bottle (1698), The Constant
his more pragmatic gambling partner that
Couple, or A Trip to the Jubilee (1699), Sir
sum of money, and in Lonely Cowboy a
Harry Wildair, being a sequel to The Constant
couple’s attempt to start a café leads first to
Couple (1701), The Inconstant, or The Way to
comedy and then tragedy as the values of a
Win Him (1702), The Twin Rivals (1702),
world they try to ban from their café reassert
The Stage Coach (1704), The Recruiting
themselves.
Officer (1706), The Beaux’ Stratagem (1707)
TRY THESE: Farquhar left Trinity College, Dublin, to
11 Josephine House has affinities with ‘MOLIÈRE ’s become an actor but took to writing after he
Tartuffe and ‘BALDWIN ’s The Amen Corner; injured his opponent in the duel at the end of
Fagon’s work offers interesting points of compari- ‘DRYDEN ’s The Indian Emperor. He married
son with other British black writers such as a woman he mistakenly believed to be an
‘ABBENSETTS , ‘ELLIS , ‘IKOLI , ‘MATURA , heiress and died in poverty aged only 29.
‘PHILLIPS and ‘RHONE . His writing is witty and stylish, and rather
warmer than that of ‘ CONGREVE and
‘WYCHERLEY . The later plays are more closely
drawn from life with a very positive attitude
F Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:12 Page 90

90 FARR, David
to the situation of women in his society. In Former artistic director of London’s Gate
The Constant Couple he created the role of Theatre, Farr is now the joint artistic director
Harry Wildair, a kind-hearted rake, which of the Bristol Old Vic and has directed for the
became a celebrated breeches part for many RSC, Nottingham Playhouse, the Young Vic
years, but he is now best known for his two and in Zagreb. He achieved considerable suc-
last plays. The Recruiting Officer is, unusually, cess with his version of Dostoevsky at the new
set in Shropshire, where Sgt Kite is recruiting. Arcola theatre in Dalston but his own plays
Silvia, the daughter of a local justice, enlists, range across genres: Max Klapper is a mixed-
disguised as a man, so that she can be near her media piece for the centenary of cinema,
lover. Bill Gaskill’s National Theatre’s produc- Elton John’s Glasses is rather more than a study
tion at the Old Vic in 1963 (partly influenced of a football supporter’s decline after his team
by ‘ BRECHT ’s adaptation Trumpets and fail to win the FA Cup, The Nativity is a
Drums) emphasised the clarity of Farquhar’s reworking of the story of the birth of Christ,
presentation of his divided society and its Joan of Arc’s Thoughts is what you might
power structures so that the affected manner- expect from the title, The Danny Crowe Show
isms which had previously tended to suffice is a satire on the Gerry Springer-type of
for ‘Restoration style’ began to lose their television show, Night of the Soul is a modern
foothold in contemporary productions. Set in ghost story and The Queen Must Die is about
Lichfield, another provincial location, The the 2002 Jubilee.
Beaux’ Stratagem shows two London beaux
seeking country marriages to restore their for- TRY THESE:
tunes, one posing as his own elder brother, the ‘HARRISON for a reworking of the medieval
other as his servant. It makes a case for mysteries; ‘ANOUILH , ‘BRECHT and ‘SHAW for
divorce on the grounds of incompatibility St Joans; ‘AYCKBOURN ’s Man of the Moment for
and, in introducing Lady Bountiful, added an television; ‘CHURCHILL ’s Fen for ghosts.
expression to the English language.

TRY THESE: FEIFFER, Jules [1929 – ]


‘BEHN , ‘CONGREVE , ‘ETHEREGE , ‘VANBURGH , American dramatist and cartoonist
‘WYCHERLEY for other ‘Restoration’ dramatists;
PLAYS INCLUDE:
‘GOLDSMITH (who refers to Beaux’ Stratagem in
The Explainers (1961), Crawling Arnold
She Stoops to Conquer) and ‘SHERIDAN wrote (1961), The World of Jules Feiffer (1962),
within broadly similar conventions; ‘AYCKBOURN ,
Little Murders (1967), The Unexpurgated
‘PHILIP BARRY , ‘COWARD , ‘LEIGH , ‘LUCIE ,
Memories of Bernard Mergendelier (1968),
‘SIMON , ‘WILDE for later comedies of manners;
God Bless (1968), Feiffer’s People (1968), The
‘WERTENBAKER ’s Our Country’s Good centres on
White House Murder Case (1970), Munro
the staging of The Recruiting Officer as the first
(1971), Watergate Classics (1973), Knock,
production in Australia, performed by convicts.
Knock (1976), Hold Me (1977), Grown-Ups
(1981), A Think Piece (1982), Jules Feiffer’s
America (1987, adapted by Russell
FARR, David [1969 – ]
Vandenbroucke), Anthony Rose (1989), Eliot’s
British dramatist and director Love (1990) A Bad Friend (2003)
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Most prolific as a dramatist in the 1960s,
Max Klapper – A Life in Pictures (1995),
Feiffer was an important figure in the off-, off-
Elton John’s Glasses (1997), Dark Night of the
off-Broadway and regional theatre move-
Soul (1999), The Nativity (1999), The Danny
ments. Feiffer’s is a psychic landscape full of
Crowe Show (2001), Joan of Arc’s Thoughts on
domestic and social violence. Little Murders, in
the English as She Burns at the Stake (2001),
which a family shoots at passers-by through
Crime and Punishment in Dalston (2002),
their nice, middle-class windows, may best
Night of the Soul (2002), The Queen Must Die
illustrate the author’s vision of intermarried
(2003), Great Expectations (2003, from
urban and domestic blight. Feiffer’s plays, like
Dickens)
F Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:12 Page 91

FIERSTEIN, Harvey 91

the cartoons for which he is famous, are typi- (1908, My Late Mother-in-law), Léonie est en
fied by mordant, often self-mocking, existen- Avance (1911, Any Minute Now), Hortense a
tial humour. But Feiffer is adept at farce too, as dit: ‘Je m’en fous’ (1916, Hortense Said ‘Stuff
evidenced by Watergate Classics, a spoof of the It’), A Journey to London (completed by
Nixon presidency. Feiffer’s People and Hold Me, James Saunders, 1985)
which the author has dubbed ‘sketch plays’,
have the quick, direct punch of a good draw- Feydeau’s middle-period plays are the arche-
ing. Grown-Ups, about an affluent New York type of French farce. The principal characters
family spiralling into emotional chaos, invites are Parisian bourgeois, their major driving
comparisons with no less a dramatist than force is extra-connubial lust, and the basic
‘STRINDBERG. Feiffer’s best plays capture the source of the humour is their ever more
confused searching, the crises of courage and desperate attempts to avoid being found out.
failed political vision of a particular segment Although no respectable married woman is
of the middle and upper-middle class during ever seduced by her husband’s best friend, it is
the turbulent 1960s, mixed-up 1970s and not for want of trying on either side. The plots
ruthless 1980s. seem to have been constructed by a mad
Feiffer is an accomplished screenwriter watchmaker, but the status quo is always
whose credits include Carnal Knowledge, Little restored at the end. His later one-act plays
Murders (adapted from his play), Popeye and I (after he left his wife) are more misanthropic,
Want to Go Home. more loosely constructed, and need more care-
ful production; but the full-length plays come
TRY THESE: up as fresh as ever. Peter Hall’s productions of
‘ALBEE for households in dire distress; An Absolute Turkey (1994) and Mind Millie for
‘SCHISGAL’ s An American Millionaire for a Me (1996) kept Feydeau in the West End, but
Feifferesque black farce about violence and Horse and Carriage, adapted by Graham
affluence; ‘GUARE ’s House of Blue Leaves and Six Garden in 2001, even with Griff Rhys-Jones
Degrees of Separation for incisively comic views of and Alison Steadman, did not get to London
two very different New York families; ‘MAMET ’s
Edmond for perhaps the darkest look at urban life; TRY THESE:
‘SIMON for a more sanitised version of New York ‘LABICHE for nineteenth-century French farce;
angst; ‘DURANG and ‘KOPIT (especially Oh Dad ‘ORTON for the occasional casual cruelty of the
Poor Dad) for comparably deranged families. humour (e.g. the man with no roof to his mouth,
the character with bad breath, the comic
foreigners); perhaps the contemporary English
FEYDEAU, Georges [1862 – 1921] equivalent is ‘COONEY ’s farces, also invariably
French dramatist focused on extra-marital lust.
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Tailleur pour Dames (1886, The Ladies’
FIERSTEIN, Harvey [1954 – ]
Tailor), Champignol Malgré Lui (1892,
Champignol in Spite of Himself), Le Mariage
American actor and dramatist
de Barillon (1890, Horse and Carriage), M. PLAYS INCLUDE:
Chasse (1892, Game Pie or Monsieur Goes In Search of the Cobra Jewels (1973), Forget
Hunting), L’Hôtel du Libre-Échange (1894, Him (1982), Freaky Pussy (1982), Flatbush
Hotel Paradiso or A Little Hotel on the Side), Tosca (1982), Torch Song Trilogy (1982), La
Un Fil à la Patte (1894, Cat Among the Cage aux Folles (1983, libretto), Spookhouse
Pigeons or Get Out of My Hair), Le Dindon (1984), Safe Sex (1987), Legs Diamond (1988,
(1896, Ruling the Roost or Sauce for the Goose libretto)
or An Absolute Turkey), La Dame de chez
Fierstein, who made his acting debut in 1971
Maxim (1899, The Lady from Maxim’s), La
with Andy Warhol, now works mainly as an
Puce à l’Oreille (1907, A Flea in Her Ear),
actor, with many credits including Independ-
Occupe-toi d’Amélie (1908, Look After Lulu or
ence Day, Mrs Doubtfire, Mulan, Cheers and
Mind Millie for Me), Feu la Mère de Madame
F Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:12 Page 92

92 FINNEGAN, Seamus
The Simpsons. Torch Song Trilogy was a land- Bridgport (2002), Waiting for the Angels
mark in gay theatre, winning two Tony and (2002)
Drama Desk Awards (Best Play and Best Actor)
and catapulting the author to mainstream Belfast-born, Catholic-bred former teacher
fame. The plays that constitute the trilogy (The (at the Jewish Free School in London) and
International Stud, Fugue in a Nursery and onetime political activist, Finnegan has
Widows and Children First) had been staged become one of the most prolific commenta-
independently before Fierstein brought them tors on Northern Ireland. Ambitiously wide-
together. They deal with the life of the hero as ranging in his themes, Finnegan has moved
he negotiates the intricacies of everyday life from the early monologues of outrage
and love, his relationship with his mother and through the complexities of the situation (Act
his career as a drag queen. As Fierstein said, of Union, Soldiers and North) to exploration
‘The worth of these plays lies ultimately in the of loyalties and principles on a wider scale in
tiny mirrors woven into the fabric wherein we The War Trilogy, which spans the Spanish
catch our reflections . . . Any little thing that Civil War (The Spanish Play), the Holocaust
makes you feel less alone is what and why these in Europe (The German Connection) and
plays are.’ The author’s comment may explain Israel (the radio play The Cemetery of Europe).
the enduring appeal of the trilogy to straight as Eschewing nationalism, Finnegan’s plays have
well as gay audiences. None of Fierstein’s sub- been notable for their non-sectarian, even
sequent plays matched the success of the trilo- ironical detachment, and for their concern,
gy. Spookhouse, a Paul Zindel-like tale of a har- like James Joyce, with exploring Jewish links
ridan mother living in Coney Island, was not Finnegan is equally capable of providing
totally convincing, although Fierstein again dramatic cameos on a smaller, more domestic
showed his talent for creating sensitive, inti- canvas such as in Mary’s Men, a poignant
mate scenes. Safe Sex, also a trilogy, was one of portrait of lost dreams among Belfast’s down-
the first overtly post-AIDS dramas. Though and-outers or the two-hander Diaspora Jigs, a
extremely important in terms of its subject tale of homelessness. Murder in Bridgport, set
matter, it closed after only two weeks. in Chicago, tackles the paradox that the Irish
who have fled from repression turn into
TRY THESE: oppressors in the USA in a remix of the
‘KRAMER and ‘SHERMAN as contemporary gay traditional ingredients of hatred, religion and
writers whose works have reached a broad violence. History, language and the ironies of
audience; ‘ELYOT , ‘LUCAS , ‘MCNALLY , fate continue to be at the centre of his work.
‘RAVENHILL as dramatists who have written
about AIDS and gay life. TRY THESE:
For other contemporary views of Ireland and the
Irish, ‘CARR , ‘DEVLIN , ‘FRIEL , ‘HUTCHINSON ,
FINNEGAN, Seamus [1949 – ] ‘MARIE JONES , ‘KILROY , ‘MCGUINNESS ,
Northern Irish dramatist ‘MORNIN , ‘PARKER , ‘REID .
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Laws of God (1978), Paddy and Britannia
FIRTH, Tim [1964 – ]
(1979), I Am a Bomb (1979), Victims (1979),
Act of Union (1980), Herself Alone (1981),
British dramatist
Soldiers (1981), James Joyce and the Israelites PLAYS INCLUDE:
(1982), Loyal Willy (1982), The Little People A Man of Letters (1991), Neville’s Island
(1982), Tout (1984), North (1984), Beyond a (1992), A Bigger Slice of the Pie (1993), The
Joke (1984), Mary’s Men (1984), Bringing It End of the Food Chain (1993), Love Songs for
Home (1984), Gombeen (1985), The Spanish Shopkeepers (1998), The Safari Party (2002),
Play (1986), The German Connection (1986), Our House (2002)
Ghetto (1987), The Murphy Girls (1988),
Perhaps best known for his television work
1916 (1989), Mary Maginn (1990), Life after
(Preston Front) and more recently for the
Life (2000), Diaspora Jigs (2001), Murder in
F Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:12 Page 93

FLETCHER, John 93

script for the Madness musical Our House, 1979, from faulty high-rise blocks and
Firth has a long-standing relationship with corrupt policemen to Rhodesian sanctions-
‘ALAN AYCKBOURN ’s Stephen Joseph theatre busting. It has all the virtues of a thriller and
in Scarborough and there are certainly many reserves its anger for the Labour politicians
similarities between his work and the mas- who wasted their golden opportunity.
ter’s. For example, Firth’s award-winning Perhaps it seemed a little long in perform-
Neville’s Island, a nightmarish comedy in ance, but then there was a lot of material to be
which a group of middle-aged office workers considered; an updated version would be far
find themselves marooned on an island in a more chilling and would presumably be even
lake when a ‘team-building’ exercise goes longer. Singer is another epic re-creation of
wrong, is reminiscent of Way Upstream. corruption in Britain, centring on concentra-
Similarly, as couples move round from house tion-camp survivors who react in chillingly
to house to eat the separate courses of a meal, different ways to their experiences. It’s partly a
The Safari Party, which deals with a culture panoramic history of post-war Britain, partly
clash between impoverished landowners and a meditation on the meaning of the
rich incomers, centred on the value (or other- Holocaust, partly a modern version of
wise) of an ‘antique’ table, recalls many of Renaissance tragicomedy, complete with
Ayckbourn’s plays. chorus out of Henry V. A revised version of
The Boy’s Own Story, a monologue for a goal-
TRY THESE: keeper, toured in 1992–3 but since then
‘DE ANGELIS ’s Warwickshire Testimony for in- Flannery has worked in film and television,
comers and country-dwellers; ‘BARRIE ’s The achieving a notable success with his television
Admirable Crichton and ‘SHAKESPEARE ’s The adaptation of Our Friends in the North.
Tempest for men behaving badly after a ship-
wreck; ‘BUFFINI , ‘ISITT , ‘WHITEHEAD for meals TRY THESE:
that go badly. ‘BARKER ’s A Passion in Six Days and Stripwell,
‘BARNES ’ The Ruling Class, ‘BRENTON and
‘HARE ’s Brassneck and Pravda are among recent
FLANNERY, Peter [1951 – ] British plays that deal with politics, corruption and
British dramatist the establishment; ‘OTWAY ’s Venice Preserv’d,
‘GAY ’s The Beggar’s Opera, ‘SHAW ’s Widower’s
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Heartbreak Hotel (1975), Last Resort (1976),
Houses, ‘GRANVILLE-BARKER ’s Waste are
examples from the seventeenth, eighteenth,
Savage Amusement (1978), The Boy’s Own
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; for
Story (1978), The Adventures of Awful
‘bent’ policeman, G. F. Newman’s Operation Bad
Knawful (1979), Jungle Music (1979), Our
Friends in the North (1982), Heavy Days
Apple, ‘ORTON ’s Loot, ‘NIGEL WILLIAMS ’ WCPC;
‘CHURCHILL’ s Serious Money offers a satirical
(1982), Silence on My Radio (1983), Singer
view of some aspects of City scandals;
(1989)
‘SHERMAN ’s Bent and ‘C. P. TAYLOR ’s Good for
Flannery, a Manchester University drama concentration-camp experiences; ‘BAINS ’ Blood
graduate, had most of his work staged by the for the brutalisation process in terms of the
Manchester-based Contact Theatre Company partition of India in 1947.
or the RSC, for whom he was resident drama-
tist in 1979–80. Much of his work includes
songs, often by fellow Manchester student FLETCHER, John [1579 – 1625]
Mick Ford, and he has been particularly con- English dramatist
cerned with problems of despair and urban
PLAYS INCLUDE:
decay in Savage Amusement and Jungle Music.
The Woman’s Prize; or, The Tamer Tamed
Our Friends in the North won the John
(after 1604, with ‘FRANCIS BEAUMONT ),
Whiting Award for its vivid and trenchant re-
Philaster (pre-1610, with ‘FRANCIS
creation of some of the interlocking strands
BEAUMONT ), The Maid’s Tragedy (pre-1611,
of corruption in British life between 1964 and
F Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:12 Page 94

94 FO, Dario
with ‘FRANCIS BEAUMONT ), A King and No whole effect is truly tragicomic, with many
King (1611, with ‘FRANCIS BEAUMONT ), possibilities of death and disaster, but virtual-
Henry VIII (1613, with ‘SHAKESPEARE ), The ly everything turns out well for everybody in
Two Noble Kinsmen (1613, with the end, except for Arcite who wins the con-
‘SHAKESPEARE ), The Custom of the Country test for Emilia but is killed accidentally, thus
(c. 1619, with ‘PHILIP MASSINGER ), The Island leaving the way clear for Palamon to marry
Princess (c. 1619) Emilia. Quite what Emilia makes of this last-
minute substitution is not clear. The 1986
The son of a clergyman who eventually died RSC revival showed that the play can hold its
in poverty despite having been Bishop of own; what it needs now is regular revivals so
London, Fletcher was a prolific and popular that we can gauge its true strengths.
dramatist who succeeded ‘SHAKESPEARE as
resident dramatist with the King’s Men. His TRY THESE:
current theatrical reputation rests mainly on Theseus figures in ‘EURIPIDES ’ The Suppliant
his collaborations with Shakespeare and The Women and Hippolytus (which deals with the
Maid’s Tragedy, though he wrote many come- Phaedra story later dramatised by ‘RACINE , in
dies of manners that might repay attention as which Hippolytus dies in a similar way to Arcite);
precursors of Restoration comedy. He also ‘SHAKESPEARE uses Theseus and Hippolyta in A
wrote The Woman’s Prize; or, The Tamer Midsummer Night’s Dream; the substitution of one
Tamed, a sequel to The Taming of the Shrew, in beloved for another which figures in The Two
which Petruchio gets his just deserts at the Noble Kinsmen, ‘SHAKESPEARE ’s Two Gentlemen
hands of his second wife. Whether the RSC’s of Verona, Measure for Measure and All’s Well That
2003 staging of both plays in tandem will Ends Well has sinister parallels in the substitution
restore Fletcher’s to the repertory remains an of one woman for another in a man’s bed in
open question. Certainly their revival of The ‘MIDDLETON and ‘ROWLEY ’s The Changeling;
Island Princess in 2002 was greeted respect- ‘BOLT ’s A Man for All Seasons offers a different
fully rather than as the reclamation of a lost interpretation of Henry VIII from that of
masterpiece. Henry VIII is a celebratory epic ‘FLETCHER and ‘SHAKESPEARE ;
of the birth of Protestant England in which ‘SHAKESPEARE ’s other history plays cover the
Henry is presented rather more favourably period from King John to Richard III.
and seriously than he tends to be in our
contemporary picture of him. It uses non-
naturalistic dramatic devices in a way that FO, Dario [1926 – ]
‘ BRECHT would have admired. The two Italian performer, dramatist and manager
gentlemen who meet at major events
PLAYS INCLUDE:
throughout the play and remind each other
Stealing a Foot Makes You Lucky in Love
and the audience of the historical context are
(1961), Mistero Buffo (1969), Accidental
particularly endearing if you like that kind of
Death of an Anarchist (1970), Can’t Pay?
approach to dramatic writing (and particu-
Won’t Pay! (1974), Female Parts (1977, with
larly irritating if you like tightly controlled
‘FRANCA RAME ), Trumpets and Raspberries
causality and plausibility).
(1981), The Opera of Guffaws (1981 with
‘FRANCA RAME , from ‘JOHN GAY ’s The
The Two Noble Kinsmen
Beggar’s Opera), The Mother (1982), The
The Two Noble Kinsmen is a fascinating study
Open Couple (1983, with ‘FRANCA RAME ),
of conflict between honour and love, derived
Elizabeth (1984), One Was Nude and One
from Chaucer, in which Palamon and Arcite,
Wore Tails (1985), The First Miracle of the
the kinsmen of the title, imprisoned by
Boy Jesus (1986), The Pope and the Witch
Theseus, vie for the love of Hippolyta’s sister
(1989), Zitti! Stiamo Precipitando (1990),
Emilia. In the subplot the gaoler’s daughter,
Johan Padan and the Discovery of the
who loves Palamon, goes mad for love and is
Americas (1991), The Devil in Drag (1997)
subsequently cured by the attentions of her
former suitor disguised as Palamon. The
F Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:12 Page 95

FO, Dario 95

Accidental Death of an Anarchist by Dario Fo, directed by Michael Grandage, Donmar Warehouse, 2003.
Desmond Barrit, Emma Amos, Rhys Ifans, Adrian Scarborough, Paul Ritter, Cornelius Booth. (Marilyn
Kingwill/ArenaPAL)
F Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:12 Page 96

96 FOOTE, Horton
Fo, one of the great comic performers, Trumpets and Raspberries, which makes hilar-
especially in his solo piece Mistero Buffo, ious use of the ‘double’ joke, as the Fiat boss,
which he has performed all over the world, Agnelli, is saved in an attempted assassination
has written many plays, often to the severe by a Fiat worker, but is given the worker’s fea-
embarrassment of the Italian government of tures by mistake in plastic surgery. Many of
the day. His combination of popular farce and Fo’s and Rame’s works have also become sta-
savage political comment is unique and very ples of fringe theatre.
effective. It earned him the 1997 Nobel Prize
for Literature, to the discomfort of the TRY THESE:
Vatican, which finds his irreverence about ‘ARDEN and D’Arcy’s Non-Stop Connolly Show,
religion difficult to deal with. Fo’s father was a ‘JOHN MCGRATH for British parallels and
socialist railway worker and amateur actor. He contrasts; ‘GOLDONI , Plautus, ‘SHAKESPEARE for
started in the Italian theatre in Milan in the plays about doubles; ‘BRECHT for another
1950s, with revue sketches, radio comedy and response to ‘GAY ; ‘EDGAR for British agitprop;
songs, and some early farces with the Fo- Zitti! Stiamo Precipitando is about AIDS; ‘ELYOT ,
Rame Company (founded with his wife ‘FIERSTEIN , ‘LUCAS , ‘MCNALLY , ‘RAVENHILL
‘FRANCA RAME ) from 1959 to 1968, when as dramatists who have written about AIDS and
they established a cooperative group called gay life.
the Compagnia Nuova Scena, where he first
performed his bravura solo act Mistero Buffo.
A free-wheeling act, developed over the years FOOTE, Horton [1916 – ]
in response to changing times, it is partly American dramatist, screenwriter and actor
written in grammelot, an invented language
PLAYS INCLUDE:
which he declares was made up by medieval
Wharton Dance (1940), Texas Town (1941),
strolling players to avoid political censorship,
Only the Heart (1942), Celebration (1948),
and in which he satirises the Catholic Church,
The Chase (1952), The Trip to Bountiful
politicians, big business, repressive laws, and
(1953), The Traveling Lady (1954), A Young
generally presents the irrepressible underdog.
Lady of Property (1955), Gone with the Wind
In 1970 he founded a new company, La
(1972, musical), The Roads to Home (1982),
Comune, a theatrical collective, which worked
Courtship (1984), The Road to the Graveyard
as a community theatre in a working-class
(1985), Blind Date (1986), Lily Dale (1986),
suburb of Milan where his work became
The Widow Claire (1986), Talking Pictures
overtly political and revolutionary. In
(1990), The Young Man from Atlanta (1997)
December of the same year the company put
on ‘a grotesque farce about a tragic farce’, Veteran dramatist and screenwriter Foote
Accidental Death of an Anarchist. This play writes in a style that is starkly realistic and
was based on the death of Giuseppe Pinelli, an marks the slow passage of time in the heat-
anarchist railway worker who had ‘accidental- baked South. Chekhovian in tone and
ly’ fallen from a Milan police station window Faulkneresque in sensibility, his work centres
during interrogation about planting bombs. on family relationships and characters in
Fo himself played the part of the ‘Maniac’ search of the roots that give meaning to their
who infiltrates police headquarters and shows lives. A stoic acceptance of life’s travails is seen
the implausibility of the police story; the as passive heroism. Foote won Academy
mode is farcical, but the content profoundly Awards for the screenplays for To Kill a
disturbing. The show was changed nightly Mockingbird in 1962 and Tender Mercies in
through its run, as more facts about the 1984. In The Trip to Bountiful, probably his
Pinelli affair emerged. It was revived in best-known play, an elderly woman leaves the
London at the Donmar Warehouse in 2003. cramped Houston apartment she shares with
Other Fo plays to have received high-pro- her son and his wife to return to her country
file British productions include Can’t Pay? home but the journey turns into one of self-
Won’t Pay!, a well-structured farce about civil discovery. The screen adaptation of The Trip
disobedience in the face of high prices, and to Bountiful earned him an Academy Award
F Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:12 Page 97

FOREMAN, Richard 97

nomination and an Oscar for its star, TRY THESE:


Geraldine Page in 1985. Ford was clearly heavily influenced by
‘SHAKESPEARE in both ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore
TRY THESE: (aspects of Romeo and Juliet) and Perkin Warbeck
‘CHEKHOV for realistic writing and passive (particularly the Henry VI plays and Richard III,
characters; ‘MILLER , ‘SIMON for plays of family which deal with the historical events preceding
relationships, ‘HENLEY , ‘TENNESSEE WILLIAMS the action of Ford’s play); ‘MIDDLETON ’s Women
for plays that reflect the values of the American Beware Women has an incest plot which is
South; ‘BOND ’s Narrow Road to the Deep North thought to have influenced Ford’s treatment;
for a journey of self-discovery. incest is also a main theme in ‘SHELLEY ’s, and
‘ARTAUD ’s, The Cenci and ‘RECKORD ’s X;
‘STOPPARD ’s The Real Thing uses ’Tis Pity as one
FORD, John [1586 – c. 1640] of its intertexts; ‘PIRANDELLO ’s Henry IV (which is
English dramatist not about the English king) is a significant
modern play about the construction of identity.
PLAYS INCLUDE:
The Witch of Edmonton (1621, with
‘THOMAS DEKKER and ‘WILLIAM ROWLEY ),
FOREMAN, Richard [1937 – ]
Perkin Warbeck (c. 1622–32), The Broken
Heart (c. 1629), ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore
American dramatist, director and scene designer
(c. 1632) PLAYS INCLUDE:
Angelface (1968), Elephant Steps (1970, music
Ford had a legal training at the Middle
by Stanley Silverman), Total Recall (1971),
Temple but may not have practised law. He
Sophia: The Cliffs (1972), Classical Therapy
made his theatrical debut with The Witch of
(1973), Vertical Mobility (1974), Sophia =
Edmonton, collaborated in five plays and
Wisdom (1974), Rhoda in Potatoland (1975),
wrote another eight by himself. Because ’Tis
Book of Splendors (Part 1) (1976), Book of
Pity She’s a Whore deals sensitively and not
Splendors (Part 2) (1977), Blvd. de Paris
unsympathetically with incest, Ford has been
(1977), Madame Adare (1980, music by
subject to high moral condemnation and
Stanley Silverman), George Bataille’s Bathrobe
treated as the prime representative of the
(1983), Egyptology (1983), Miss Universal
alleged decadence of the drama during the
Happiness (1985), The Cure (1986), Africanus
reign of Charles I. He, ‘MIDDLETON and
Instructus (1986, music by Stanley
‘MASSINGER are, in fact, the latest of the pre-
Silverman), Love and Science (1987), Film is
Civil War dramatists to be staged on anything
Evil: Radio is Good (1987), Symphony of Rats
like a regular basis in the contemporary
(1988), Eddie Goes to Poetry City (Part 1)
theatre, and there can be no denying the
(1990), Eddie Goes to Poetry City (Part 2)
sensational quality of ’Tis Pity in view of such
(1991), The Mind King (1992), Samuel’s
moments as Giovanni’s entrance with the
Major Problems (1993), My Head Was a
heart of his sister Annabella on the point of
Sledgehammer (1994), Permanent Brain
his dagger. Nevertheless, it is a play well with-
Damage (1996), Pearls for Pigs (1997), Benita
in the Renaissance tradition of scrutinising
Canova (1997), Paradise Hotel (1998), Bad
limits and defying convention that still
Boy Nietzsche (2000), Now That Communism
attracts modern audiences. Perkin Warbeck, a
is Dead, My Life Feels Empty (2001), Maria
very late example of the chronicle play
Del Bosco (2002)
fashionable in the Elizabethan period, is a
fascinating study of role-playing with its pro- Foreman has established himself in the fore-
tagonist, who claims to be the son of Edward front of the American avant-garde as both a
IV, choosing to be executed rather than admit dramatist and director. His plays relegate
his imposture. linear plot, emotion, character development
and narrative to the expression of the work-
ings of the human consciousness. The overall
design resulting from a series of often incom-
F Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:12 Page 98

98 FORNES, Maria Irene


prehensible incidents aspires not to logic, but Fornes was born in Havana, Cuba, then emi-
to psychological truth. As a director, Foreman grated to the United States and became an
has developed techniques that allow him to American citizen. An artist by training, she
supplement the effects sought by his plays. He has become one of the most consistently
sometimes uses untrained actors who speak innovative American dramatists, eager to
flatly and without emotion; backdrops, small work in a range of styles. During the 1970s,
stages, strings, ropes and other props divide Fornes moved away from pieces in the absur-
the stage instantaneously, isolating specific dist tradition of ‘IONESCO and ‘MROZEK
words or incidents; sounds, lights, and other that expressed an ironic attitude about such
effects serve as similar framing devices; he has American myths as economic success and
served as the designer for all of his own plays. true love, and began to write plays that were
Foreman stresses the importance of the visual often minimalist in their language and
unity in his productions, asserting that a conveyed the isolation and anguish experi-
particular strength of his work ‘is the spatial enced by women through the centuries.
manipulation of actors, scenery, and decor, Fornes actively seeks to inject the sponta-
and all the elements of the theatre choreo- neous into her creative process: her first play
graphed in a given space’. Although he has was composed of scenes each of whose first
toured his work all over the world, it has line came from a different page of a cook-
seldom been seen in Britain. book. The idea for The Danube, a romance
between an English-language teacher and his
TRY THESE: pupil that takes place, in post-World War II
‘BECKETT , ‘HANDKE , ‘MÜLLER , ‘SIMPSON , Hungary before moving into an unnamed
‘HEATHCOTE WILLIAMS , ‘SNOO WILSON for post-apocalyptic future came from Fornes’
other versions of fragmented consciousness; discovery of a recording of Hungarian
Laurie Anderson, ‘BOGART , Meredith Monk, language lessons in a second-hand record
Nancy Reilly, San Francisco Mime Troupe, Richard store. Mud, a dark, domestic triangle at whose
Schechner, Peter Sellars, Robert Wilson, the centre is an entrapped and abused woman
Wooster Group for the American avant-garde; whose quest for freedom and escape is met
‘BARTLETT and Ariane Mnouchkine for European with a bullet from her lover/husband, was
parallels; Peter Brook and Peter Stein for other completed after she came across a broom in a
singular, spatially oriented directors. rummage store, and proceeded to make it a.
central prop. One of Fornes’ most terrifying
plays, The Conduct of Life, is a brutal look at
FORNES, Maria lrene [1930 – ] the moral, spiritual and physical corruption
American dramatist and director attending the lives of a Latin American
colonel (whose job is torturing prisoners) and
PLAYS INCLUDE:
his wife, who at first wilfully ignores her
The Widow (1961), Tango Palace (1963), The
husband’s occupation – as well as the young
Successful Life of Three (1965), Promenade
woman he’s brought home as a concubine –
(1965), A Vietnamese Wedding (1967), Dr
although by the end of the play she knows
Kheal (1968), Molly’s Dream (1968), Aurora
enough to kill him. Fornes has won many
(1974), Fefu and Her Friends (1979), Blood
OBIE Awards for her work, including one for
Wedding (1980, from ‘LORCA ), The Danube
sustained achievement.
(1983), Mud (1984), Sayita (1984), The
Conduct of Life (1985), Cold Air (1985,
Fefu and Her Friends
adapted from Virgilio Pinera), The Trial of
Fefu and Her Friends is a mood play that
Joan of Arc on a Matter of Faith (1986), The
captures both the insecurities and the aggres-
Mothers (1987), Abingdon Square (1987),
sions of a group of eight women, Set in
Oscar and Berta (1987), And What of the
America during the 1930s, it is nonetheless
Night (1990), Enter the Night (1993), The
rooted emotionally in the 1970s, for it
Summer in Gossonsass (1998), Letters from
explores the position of women on the edge of
Cuba (2000), The Autobiography of Alice B.
self-definition. The economy of the language
Toklas (2001, from Gertrude Stein)
F Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:12 Page 99

FRAYN, Michael 99

lends the script both a lyricism and a sense of FRAYN, Michael [1933 – ]
mystery. The women in the play seem to British dramatist, novelist,journalist and translator
communicate with each other through
PLAYS INCLUDE:
nuance and implication, as though operating
The Two of Us (1970, comprising Black and
in a private world that only they comprehend.
Silver, The New Quixote, Mr Foot,
Fornes tries to bring the audience into that
Chinamen), The Sandboy (1971),
world by requiring spectators to walk into the
Alphabetical Order (1975), Donkey’s Years
spaces that the characters inhabit, while
(1976), Clouds (1976), Balmoral (1978, reti-
scenes are being performed (the audience is to
tled Liberty Hall), Make and Break (1980),
be divided into groups, and scenes are to be
Noises Off (1982), Benefactors (1984), Look
repeated until each group has participated).
Look (1990), Now You Know (1995, from his
own novel), Copenhagen (1998), Alarms and
TRY THESE:
Excursions (1998)
‘CHURCHILL , ‘GLASPELL , ‘LEVY for innovative
work centred on women; ‘KROETZ for dark, Born in Mill Hill, Frayn co-scripted the 1957
sombre plays written in similar style; ‘MILLER for Cambridge University Footlights revue
questioning the American dream; The Summer in ‘Zounds’, then worked for the Guardian, and
Gossonsass responds to ‘IBSEN and specifically the Observer until 1968, a period during
Hedda Gabler; ‘DURAS shares something of which he wrote four of his novels. He also
Fornes’ concerns. wrote award-winning articles on Cuba
(Clouds is about the experience of journalists
in Cuba).
FOSSE, Jon [1959 – ] Frayn’s plays are often comic, but the com-
Norwegian novelist, poet and dramatist edy is very edgy and sometimes even, as in
Noises Off, manic. Many of them explore
PLAYS INCLUDE:
behaviour within the constraints and frames
The Name (1995), Nightsongs (1997), Summer’s
of institutions; Alphabetical Order is set in the
Day (1999), The Girl on the Sofa (UK prem-
library of a provincial newspaper, Donkey’s
ière 2002), Purple (UK première 2003)
Years at an Oxford college reunion; Make and
Fosse’s plays have been widely staged across Break is about a businessman’s experience of
Europe but little seen in Britain as yet. His an international trade fair. His film script for
work is generally spare and uncompromising Clockwise (1986) is about the host of trials
in its presentation of the indignities of daily and tribulations that thwart the journey of a
life collapsing into quiet despair and the headmaster (played by John Cleese) to a con-
violence beyond despair. In Nightsongs a ference. In a television interview, Frayn
couple with a young baby are at the end of acknowledged that the tragicomedy of his
their tether, humanity is in short supply, and plays was something that he associated with
her attempt at escape will be catastrophic for ‘ CHEKHOV , and in recent years, he has
her as well as him. In The Girl on the Sofa proved himself a sensitive and intelligent
Fosse paints a detailed but slow-paced picture translator of Chekhov. Of Three Sisters he has
of despair, and Purple, according to the said: ‘It is about the irony of hopes . . . the way
Edinburgh Royal Lyceum publicity, is ‘deep, life mocks them’, a sentiment that applies to
dark and highly oppressive . . . a subtle but his own work too, particularly perhaps to
revealing journey of unspoken tension, Look Look, an attempt to revisit the territory
hidden emotion and adolescent rivalry’ as a of Noises Off which simply didn’t work.
band rehearses in a deserted factory. Copenhagen, a major hit, is about the meeting
between the physicists Werner Heisenberg
TRY THESE: and Niels Bohr in Copenhagen in 1942.
‘HARROWER adapted The Girl on the Sofa and Heisenberg is indelibly associated with the
Purple; ‘MOTTON translated Nightsongs; Fosse has uncertainty principle, which runs through the
been compared to early ‘BOND and ‘KROETZ; play as it explores what actually occurred at
Fosse’s The Name won the ‘IBSEN Prize. the meeting and how it affected the future
F Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:12 Page 100

100 FRAYN, Michael

Noises Off by Michael Frayn, directed by Jeremy Sams, National Theatre at the Piccadilly Theatre,
2001. Stephen Mangan, Selina Griffiths. (Pete Jones/ArenaPAL)
F Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:12 Page 101

FREISTADT, Berta 101

development of World War II as well as the Freistadt’s plays challenge the most comfort-
relationships between the two men. able and established ideas from a feminist,
often lesbian feminist, perspective, with a
Noises Off dark, surreal sense of humour that frequently
Of all Frayn’s work, Noises Off has been the mixes Absurdism with realism. Her targets
most successful. It is at one level an extra- have ranged from the domestic to the grave:
ordinarily well-crafted farce, at another, a play chauvinist fathers who stick their daughters
about the hopes and frustrations of a group of into hen coops because they want sons
actors as they tour the provinces with the (Chicken Licken); possessive mothers who
farce, ‘Nothing On’. ‘Nothing On’ is a play- brandish six-foot knives and forks over their
within-a-play, complete with a programme daughters because they want to eat them
that lists the cast biographies of the charac- (Keely’s Mother); echoes of Evelyn Waugh’s
ters. The first act opens on a traditional farce The Loved One in a lesbian farce set in a
set, inhabited by the stock character of a funeral parlour in A Fine Undertaking.
cleaning woman, although this is soon inter- Woman with a Shovel is a highly dramatic
rupted by the interventions of a director, and monologue that culminates in a woman turn-
the cleaning lady emerges as an actress ing her pent-up wrath on men with unusual
rehearsing for the first night of the farce. The violence. Poor Silly Bad is a funny, sensitive
second act turns the set around, and the audi- portrayal of three women, and particularly of
ence is confronted with the backstage events an old woman, Dot, living alone and trying to
during a performance of ‘Nothing On’. In the preserve some degree of dignity and choice in
third act, the backstage relationships between her own death. In the post-Holocaust The
the actors, stage management and director, Burning Time, Freistadt renews the domestic
after long months of touring, invade the per- theme (quoting Engels about the modern
formance of the play to chaotic effect. Noises family being based on slavery) and makes a
Off is a brilliant parody of a particular kind of plea to change the old systems of domination,
farce, of certain kinds of actors, and of the- a stance given a rather more humorous twist
atrical conventions. in The Life and Death of Laura Normill, where
a lesbian is waiting at the Pearly Gates to see
TRY THESE: whether Himself or Satan (a woman of
‘COONEY and Brian Rix, whose farces provide the course) will claim her for their own!
bones of the play-within-the-play of Noises Off;
‘CHEKHOV and ‘ANOUILH , whom Frayn has TRY THESE:
adapted and translated, and with whom he clear- ‘RAME for female domestic and sexual oppres-
ly feels an affinity; ‘FEYDEAU is the classic French sions; Tasha Fairbanks’ Curfew, like The Burning
farceur; ‘AYCKBOURN , like Frayn, uses the Time, engages with a separatist culture;
conventions of farce innovatively; ‘STOPPARD ‘DREXLER , ‘KENNEDY and ‘YANKOWITZ have
does the same in The Real Inspector Hound, but also used grotesque and sometimes violent
also tackles uncertainty and physics in Hapgood images to put over feminist ideas; ‘ORTON for
and Arcadia; ‘BRECHT (Galileo) and ‘BRENTON similar humour; ‘DÜRRENMATT ’s The Visit,
(The Genius) for scientists and moral dilemmas. ‘MEYER ’s Etta Jenks for contrasting images of a
woman wreaking revenge; ‘KEATLEY ’s My Mother
Said I Never Should, ‘KESSELMAN ’s I Love You,I
FREISTADT, Berta [1942 – ] Love You Not, ‘MACDONALD’ s All Things Nice
British poet and dramatist explore young and old through a
grandmother–granddaughter relationship;
PLAYS INCLUDE:
‘KEEFFE ’s Not Fade Away has an independent-
Chicken Licken (1981), Keely’s Mother (1981),
minded old pensioner at its centre.
Poor Silly Bad (1982), The Burning Time
(1983), Woman with a Shovel (1983), A Fine
Undertaking (1984), The Life and Death of
Laura Normill (1986)
F Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:12 Page 102

102 FRIEL, Brian


FRIEL, Brian [1929 – ] ‘establishes’ that the civil rights marchers were
Northern Irish dramatist terrorists in The Freedom of the City and their
innocent behaviour in the flashbacks that
PLAYS INCLUDE:
show what actually led up to their deaths. In
This Doubtful Paradise (1959), The Enemy
The Faith Healer three characters speak four
Within (1962), Philadelphia, Here I Come!
forty-minute monologues in a hauntingly
(1965), The Loves of Cass McGuire (1967),
written multi-viewpoint drama that again
Lovers (1968), Crystal and Fox (1970), The
draws on the themes of exile and return and
Gentle Island (1971), The Freedom of the City
the pains of both. In Molly Sweeney, again
(1973), The Volunteers (1975), Living
based on three characters’ monologues, the
Quarters (1977), Aristocrats (1979), The Faith
title character regains sight but loses insight.
Healer (1979), Translations (1981), Three
The play tackles familiar Friel themes of loss
Sisters (1981, from ‘CHEKHOV ), The
and exile and the end of things through the
Communication Cord (1982), Fathers and
fact and metaphor of blindness. In Dancing at
Sons (1987, from ‘TURGENEV ), Making
Lughnasa, set in 1936, the rural community is
History (1988), Dancing at Lughnasa (1990),
placed once again on the edge of time and of
A Month in the Country (1992, from
place. Pagan rituals locate the events but the
‘TURGENEV ), The London Vertigo (1992),
son is about to go off to fight against Franco.
Wonderful Tennessee (1992), Molly Sweeney
Friel has adapted several works by Chekhov
(1994), Give Me Your Answer, Do! (1997),
and the same sense of some imminent cata-
Uncle Vanya (1998, from ‘CHEKHOV ), The
clysm pervades this play. In Afterplay Friel
Yalta Game (2001, from ‘CHEKHOV ’s Lady
brings together Sonya from Uncle Vanya and
with a Little Dog), Afterplay (2002)
Andrei from Three Sisters in a Moscow café
Friel, born in Derry, is probably both the best some time after the Revolution.
known and the best contemporary Irish
dramatist. His work has been much preoccu- Translations
pied with the current political situation in Translations, the first play staged by the Field
Ireland in the broadest terms, particularly Day company Friel co-founded with the actor
with the pressures that contribute to the Stephen Rea, is a very fine parable of the situ-
intractability of that situation, the difficulty ation in Northern Ireland that also teases out
of rational responses to the legacy of hun- some of its cultural roots. The play is set in
dreds of years of hostility and mistrust, com- 1830s Donegal, in a world where tramps can
munities divided by religion and language, read Homer in the original but not
and the search for a way out of the impasse. ‘SHAKESPEARE , a world doomed to vanish
There is a strong emphasis on the theme of under the assault of state education (in
exile that reflects one traditional escape route English) and the Royal Engineers’ Survey of
from the economic and political ills of Ireland. Earnest English subalterns and
Ireland; in Philadelphia, Here I Come! the unhappy Irishmen try to produce English
escape is to America, in The Gentle Island it is equivalents of Irish place names in an act of
to Glasgow. cultural appropriation which remakes Ireland
The renewed violence and gradual break- in the image of England. The English
down of the political situation after 1968 is Lieutenant Yolland and the Irish woman
reflected in such plays as The Freedom of the Maire (who have no common language at all)
City and The Volunteers, which deal directly fall in love, but the barriers of others’ suspi-
with aspects of ‘the Troubles’, but Friel is also cion are too great for them to surmount and
concerned with the wider problems of com- the play ends in muddle, confusion and
munication and identity. He may not be a destruction. Although the issues are serious
particularly daring dramatist in terms of and the allegorical applications clear, Friel
formal experimentation but he makes effec- handles events with a light touch and there is
tive use of splitting a character into public much gentle comedy at the expense of the two
and private selves in Philadelphia and of the lovers failing to communicate – they both
contrast between the judicial inquiry which actually speak English in the play but neither
F Theatre Guide (1).qxp
2/4/07
16:12
Page 103

FRIEL, Brian

Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel, directed by Jonathan Munby,Watermill, Newbury, 2002. Mary Conlon, Aoife Mcmahon, Dido Miles, Carline Lennon, Patricia
103

Gannon. (Colin Willoughby/ArenaPAL)


F Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:12 Page 104

104 FRISCH, Max


understands the other – and at the expense of an influential figure in bringing new
linguistic failures in general. European drama and its ideas to a British
theatre that was dominated by the social
TRY THESE: realism of ‘The Angry Young Men’. Edna
For Irish rural life, ‘SYNGE , particularly Playboy of O’Brien has described him as a ‘European
the Western World for parallels with The Gentle brain that is as witty as it is adult’.
Island, and The Well of the Saints for Molly Sweeney;
‘O’CASEY is the great dramatist of an earlier The Fire Raisers
period of political strife in Ireland; contemporary This is a key text for the Theatre of the
dramatists writing about Ireland include Absurd, and the most ‘absurdist’ of Frisch’s
‘FINNEGAN , ‘MARIE JONES , ‘MCGUINNESS plays. A dark comedy and a cautionary tale,
(who wrote the screenplay of Dancing at the play is subtitled (with a nod at ‘BRECHT )
Lughnasa, ‘MORRISON , ‘PARKER , ‘REID , ‘A didactic play without a moral’. Throughout
‘DECLAN HUGHES , ‘MCCAFFERTY , Jimmy the play a chorus of fire-fighters acts to extend
Murphy, ‘MURPHY , ‘WALSH ; other notable plays the individual history of Biedermann to a
with tribunal settings are ‘BRECHT ’s The Measures wider political allegory. Biedermann, the
Taken, ‘EDGAR ’s Our Own People, ‘OSBORNE ’s central figure of the play, is a Bourgeois (the
Inadmissible Evidence; Robert Patrick’s Kennedy’s translation of his German name), who con-
Children intercuts monologues in a powerful re- stantly protests his status as ‘a good citizen’.
creation of the mood of 1960s USA; ‘PINTER ’s Two strangers appear in his house and lodge
Old Times deals with differing recollections of in the attic, without any protest from
events in ways reminiscent of The Faith Healer; Biedermann, where they prepare to raise a
‘NICHOLS ’ Passion Play is a memorable example fire. The play has an afterpiece in which the
of the use of two actors to play the public and devil appears: Biedermann is still protesting
personal faces of one character; Helen Cooper’s his innocence and good citizenship in the face
Mrs Vershinin tells the story of how she came to of hell fire. It becomes clear that the fire, and
be the offstage neurotic in Three Sisters; ‘DE WET Biedermann’s lack of resistance, is a parable
and Michael Picardie’s The Cape Orchard for South for the way in which ‘good citizens’ can
African responses to ‘CHEKHOV ; ‘MATURA collude with the forces of tyranny. It thus
transferred Three Sisters to Trinidad in his Trinidad refers to the position of those intellectuals in
Sisters. Germany who did nothing to resist the rise of
fascism, but also to any political context in
which ‘good citizens’ refuse to question.
FRISCH, Max [1911 – 91]
Swiss dramatist and novelist TRY THESE:
‘GENET ’s The Blacks, ‘SARTRE ’s The Condemned
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Now You Can Sing (1946), Santa Cruz
of Altona, and The Fire Raisers all had their first
London productions in 1961, and were significant
(1947), The Great Wall of China (1947,
in bringing an awareness of European theatre to
revised 1955), When the War Was Over
Britain; ‘BECKETT and ‘IONESCO were the other
(1949), Oederland (1951, revised 1961), The
main figures in the so-called ‘Theatre of the
Fire Raisers (1958, US title The Firebugs), The
Absurd’; ‘C. P. TAYLOR’ s Good is another treat-
Fury of Philip Hotz (1958), Andorra (1961),
ment of the contribution of ‘good citizens’ to the
Don Juan, or The Love of Geometry (1962)
rise of fascism; ‘ADRIAN MITCHELL ’s deservedly
Born in Zurich, Frisch did not complete his much acclaimed adaptation of The Pied Piper, a
doctoral studies in philosophy because of lack highly effective utopian allegory, poses more fas-
of money, and took up journalism. He went cinating questions about ‘good citizenry’.
back to university to study as an architect, and
produced his first building and his first novel
in 1943. He worked simultaneously as a writer
and an architect for ten years but then went to
live in Rome as a full-time writer. Frisch was
F Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:12 Page 105

FUGARD, Athol 105

FRY, Christopher [1907 – ] Curtmantle; Maxwell Anderson, ‘AUDEN ,


British dramatist ‘CHURCHILL ’s Serious Money for other twentieth-
century verse drama; ‘BRIDIE for religious drama;
PLAYS INCLUDE:
‘COLLINS ’ Judgement for contrasting prison
The Boy with a Cart: Cushman, Saint of
setting with soldiers.
Sussex (1938), A Phoenix Too Frequent
(1946), The Firstborn (1948), The Lady’s Not
for Burning (1948), Thor, with Angels (1948),
FUGARD, Athol [1932 – ]
Venus Observed (1950), A Sleep of Prisoners
(1951), The Dark Is Light Enough: A Winter
South African dramatist
Comedy (1954), Curtmantle (1961), A Yard of PLAYS INCLUDE:
Sun: A Summer Comedy (1970) Nongogo (1957), No-Good Friday (1958), The
Blood Knot (1961, revised as Blood Knot,
Fry’s early writing included revue material,
1985), Hello and Goodbye (1965), People Are
lyrics and pageants. He is a Quaker, whose
Living There (1968), Boesman and Lena
compassion is reflected in all his work –
(1969), Statements After an Arrest Under the
several plays use biblical material or religious
Immorality Act (1972), Sizwe Bansi is Dead
and ethical conflicts and he wrote the screen-
(1972, with John Kani and Winston
plays for a number of movie bible-epics. He
Ntshona), The Island (1973, with John Kani
uses words like a skater giving dazzling
and Winston Ntshona), Dimetos (1975), A
displays of speed and balance, and his witty
Lesson from Aloes (1978), ‘Master Harold’ . . .
verbal dexterity is something you either love
and the Boys (1982), The Road to Mecca
or loathe. His plotting is not very strong, but
(1984), A Place with the Pigs (1987), My
neither is it important. He has written that
Children! My Africa (1989), Playland (1993),
‘progress is the growth of vision: the increased
A Valley Song (1996), The Captain’s Tiger
perception of what makes for life and what
(1999), Sorrows and Rejoicings (2001)
makes for death. I have tried, not always suc-
cessfully, to find a way for comedy to say The leading South African dramatist of his
something of this since comedy is an essential generation, Fugard has been a major influ-
part of man’s understanding.’ ence in creating an understanding of the black
A Phoenix Too Frequent, Fry’s first success, and the ‘coloured’ person’s situations in South
retells Petronius’ story of the widow of Africa. He is to drama what writers like
Ephesus with the addition of the idea that Nadine Gordimer are to fiction – clear-eyed
being useful after death is itself a kind of white chroniclers of apartheid and its ills, who
resurrection. Fame came with The Lady’s Not remain bound in what is, to co-opt the title of
for Burning, especially its second production a Fugard play, a tortured and complex ‘blood
with John Gielgud (1949), although few peo- knot’ with a homeland they both love and
ple, including the director, seemed to respond hate. After the collapse of Apartheid, Fugard
to the dark undercurrent of bitterness and continued to cast an astringent eye on the
war-weary disenchantment that permeates strengths and weaknesses of the new dispen-
the play below its springtime charm. The later sation.
seasonal pieces more clearly show their som- Born to an Irish father and a Dutch
bre colours through the surface glitter. His mother, Fugard established his reputation
most direct statement is A Sleep of Prisoners in with Blood Knot, which was first performed
which four soldiers, prisoners in a church, secretly in a Johannesburg attic because of its
each dream the others into enactments of Old mixed-race cast. Interested in dramatically
Testament conflicts. distilled situations, often with very few char-
acters, Fugard has been linked with a writer
TRY THESE: he expressly admires – ‘SAMUEL BECKETT –
‘WHITING for the same combination of verbal particularly because of Boesman and Lena, a
skill and comedy with a deep undercurrent; play about two coloured outcasts inhabiting a
‘ANOUILH and ‘ELIOT are among other drama- plaintive Beckettian void. After collaborations
tists handling the Becket/Henry II theme of with the black actors John Kani and Winston
F Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:12 Page 106

106 FULLER, Charles


Ntshona, Fugard reached into his childhood act of playwriting, the work has a devastating
to write the piercingly autobiographical simplicity and force that pulls you through its
‘Master Harold’ . . . and the Boys, and into real- ninety minutes (without interval) from a
life situations, either experienced first hand or beginning steeped in good cheer and high
read about in the newspapers, to write The spirits to a conclusion that leaves you
Road to Mecca and A Place with the Pigs (sug- stunned. As Hally turns on the two black ser-
gested by a report of a Red Army deserter who vants, Sam and Willie, whom he has loved as
hid in a pigsty for over forty years). If his writ- surrogates for the alcoholic father he loathes,
ing is marred by anything it is an excessive Fugard shows the sources of racism in self-
fondness for metaphors which are sometimes loathing, in an inward despair so profound it
used gracefully – the ballroom dancing in can only lash out and wound. A shapely and
‘Master Harold’, the detritus in Hello and graceful piece of writing, the play makes a
Goodbye – and often over-emphatically – the restorative theatrical experience out of spiri-
resilient aloes plant in A Lesson from Aloes, the tual depletion.
‘pigsty’ of Pavel’s soul in A Place with the Pigs.
Still, at his best, Fugard’s overwhelming TRY THESE:
humanity redeems everything. You may Market Theatre of Johannesburg and Barney
quarrel with individual moments from his Simon as initiators of multiracial and anti-
plays, indeed with individual plays, but the apartheid plays, particularly Woza Albert by Percy
strength of the dramatist’s searching and gen- Ntwa, Mbongeni Ngema and Simon; for other
erous vision ultimately silences all argument. treatments of apartheid by South Africans,
‘HARWOOD , ‘LAN , ‘WRIGHT ; ‘DE ANGELIS ’s
Boesman and Lena Soft Vengeance and ‘EDGAR ’s The Jail Diary of
The most Beckettian of Fugard’s plays and Albie Sachs for one of the heroes of the anti-
like most of his works, few of which have apartheid struggle; ‘ABBENSETTS , ‘MATURA,
more than three characters – an intimate, ‘WHITE for treatments of racism in Britain;
small-scale piece on vast themes. Two abject ‘HOWE , ‘LEONARD , ‘SIMON for the formation
castaway ‘coloureds’ make their way across the of the artist; ‘TENNESSEE WILLIAMS for a similar
mud flats of South Africa’s River Swartkops, use of metaphor; ‘AUGUST WILSON ’s Joe Turner’s
in what the dramatist calls in his notebooks ‘a Come and Gone for forging a link between black
poem of destruction’. They are a comical and America and black South Africa.
pitiable pair – the talkative fidget, Lena, chat-
tering into the void in an effort to stave off
madness, and her brutalising Boesman. An FULLER, Charles [1939 – ]
elderly, near-mute black, Outa, appears at the American dramatist
campsite, but the emphasis is on the title
PLAYS INCLUDE:
characters – two living embodiments of
The Village: A Party (1968, as The Perfect
‘white man’s rubbish’, who like ‘BECKETT ’s
Party, 1969), In My Many Names and Days
tramps, are bound ever more closely through
(1972), Candidate (1974), In the Deepest Part
their mutual teasing and torment.
of Sleep (1974), The Lay Out Letter (1975),
The Brownsville Raid (1976), Sparrow in
‘Master Harold’ . . . and the Boys
Flight (1978), Zooman and the Sign (1980), A
In a Port Elizabeth tearoom one rainy after-
Soldier’s Play (1981), Sally (1988), Prince
noon, a young boy commits a reprehensible
(1989), Jonquil (1990), Burner’s Frolic (1990)
act that will haunt him the rest of his life.
Such is the bare-bones background to Fuller confronts the nature of a society that he
Fugard’s most intensely autobiographical perceives as basically racist, and he explores
play. Fugard wrote the play to honour his the experience of black people struggling to
childhood servant, Sam Semela, whom the survive in that climate. The world of Fuller’s
young Fugard once cruelly humiliated as plays is inevitably violent, since its figures
Hally does in the play. As an act of atonement, often gravitate toward destructiveness in
it’s a piercingly magnanimous gesture. As an order to claim their rightful place in America.
F Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:12 Page 107

FULLER, Charles 107

Frequently, as in Zooman and the Sign and A


Soldier’s Play, this racist-engendered violence
ends up pitting black people against each
other, in what Fuller dramatises as the tragic
outcome of a morally chaotic world. Sally,
Prince, Jonquil and Burner’s Frolic are a
sequence dealing with the aftermath of the
Civil War, confronting some of the myths of
Reconstruction most familiar from treat-
ments such as Gone with the Wind.

A Soldier’s Play
A Soldier’s Play is a forceful indictment of
America’s racist attitudes and social struc-
tures. As in many of Fuller’s dramas, white
America is the fundamental cause of this
racism, but it is the black’s self-hatred, learned
at the hands of whites, that ultimately poisons
the black person’s existence. One of the more
complex of Fuller’s scripts structurally, it is
also one of his most sophisticated in terms of
the many points of view that he dramatises.
His central character, the black sergeant
Waters who heads one of the few all-black
units waiting to ship out during World War II,
is both hateful and pitiable. Filled with con-
tempt for his own blackness, he loses any
sense of moral balance, and in the process
destroys what he set out to preserve. A
Soldier’s Play won the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for
Drama and was filmed in 1984.

TRY THESE:
‘WOLFE ’s The Colored Museum for the myths and
stereotypes of the African-American experience;
‘BARAKA ‘BULLINS , ‘ELDER , ‘HANSBERRY ’s A
Raisin in the Sun, ‘AUGUST WILSON for the
American black experience.
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 108

 
G 
GALATI, Frank [1943 – ] GALLAGHER, Mary [1947 – ]
American director and adapter American dramatist
PLAYS INCLUDE: PLAYS INCLUDE:
Winnebago (1974), Heart of a Dog (1985, Little Bird (1977), Father Dreams (1978),
from ‘BULGAKOV ), She Always Said No, Pablo Chocolate Cake (1980, with Ara Watson), Dog
(1987, conceived by Galati, with words by Eat Dog (1983), How To Say Goodbye (1986),
Gertrude Stein), A Flea in Her Ear (1988, Love Minus (1988), De Donde? (1990)
from ‘FEYDEAU ), The Grapes of Wrath (1988,
Gallagher chronicles the intimate relation-
from Steinbeck), A Long Gay Book (2003,
ships of unhappy people who see themselves
from Gertrude Stein)
as outcasts from society. Her characters are
Galati has combined an academic career with usually middle class and well educated, yet for
a career as director and dramatist in the reasons they cannot understand they are
professional theatre. He is particularly adept unable to acquire even the basic accoutre-
at shaping novels into performable scripts, as ments of the ‘good life’: a lover, marriage, a
with Heart of a Dog and the Tony Award job, children. In the end, however, the charac-
winning The Grapes of Wrath, both of which ters usually attain some degree of knowledge
retain the philosophical and emotional about themselves and often find a measure of
essences of the original. Galati preserves happiness. Although Gallagher often adopts
Steinbeck’s episodic structure, his many char- an episodic structure in her plays, her style
acters and incidents, making Ma Joad the tends to be realistic, her characters recognis-
emotional centre of the story, a choice that able, and their conversation that of day-to-
not only lends unity to Galati’s play but also day living. On occasion, she has diverged
communicates Steinbeck’s vision of her as a from this style to write plays such as Dog Eat
symbol of never-ending struggle for exist- Dog, a satire in which the American capitalist
ence. Practically all the lines in The Grapes of system disintegrates, or De Donde?, an agit-
Wrath are taken from the novel, although prop dramatisation of illegal Mexican immi-
Galati incorporates songs in ‘BRECHTIAN gration into the United States. How To Say
fashion. The original production was Goodbye, a carefully detailed picture of a
designed for a large proscenium stage with marriage that falls apart when the couple’s
the Joads’ overburdened truck, as a prop that only child becomes terminally ill, was co-
gradually took on an emotional resonance of winner of the 1987 Susan Smith Blackburn
its own, much like Courage’s wagon in Prize.
‘BRECHT ’s Mother Courage and Her Children.
TRY THESE:
TRY THESE: ‘KEMPINSKI ’s Duet for One for the impact of
‘EDGAR ’s Nicholas Nickleby and Entertaining illness; ‘HARE for anatomies of discontent;
Strangers for creation of a sense of community. ‘GANNON ’s Keeping Tom Nice and ‘NICHOLS ’ A
Day in the Death of Joe Egg for families with
children with disabilities.
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 109

GARDNER, Herb 109

GALSWORTHY, John [1867 – 1933] GANNON, Lucy [1948 – ]


British novelist and dramatist British screenwriter and dramatist
PLAYS INCLUDE: PLAYS INCLUDE:
The Silver Box (1906), Strife (1909), Justice Keeping Tom Nice (1987), Wicked Old Nellie
(1910), The Skin Game (1920), Loyalties (1987), Janet and John (1988), Raping the
(1922), Escape (1926), Exiled (1929) Gold (1988), A Dog Barking (1988), Dancing
Attendance (1990)
Galsworthy practised for a time as a barrister,
but then set out methodically to learn to write Gannon only began to write seriously in her
fiction; after ten years’ hard work he hit the late thirties, having worked as a residential
jackpot with A Man of Property (1906). By social worker. Her plays often reflect her
contrast his first play, The Silver Box, was an former occupation, concerned as they are
immediate success, though it now seems an with the elderly, the handicapped and the
over-schematic treatment of the theme of socially disadvantaged. Keeping Tom Nice, her
‘one law for the rich and another for the poor’. first play, about a family’s attitude towards
He wrote twenty-six more plays, many of their severely handicapped son, won the
which did well. They tend to be well-made Richard Burton Award, the Susan Smith
sub-Ibsen problem plays, with mild social Blackburn Prize and the John Whiting Award.
criticism, not-too stereotypical characters, a She was sometimes accused of being simplis-
strong narrative line, a touch of melodrama, tic in her attitudes and wearing her left-wing,
and upper-middle class settings; but few now anti-Thatcherite politics on her sleeve. How-
appear with any kind of regularity. Justice, ever, her plays were popular with audiences
which Galsworthy meant as a demonstration and prize-giving bodies alike and represent a
that society tends to destroy its weaker powerful voice of the late 1980s. Her
members, is unusual in having had a direct television play Soldier, Soldier inaugurated an
effect on the law – the silent scene with the enormously successful television career with
prisoner in solitary confinement seems to such series as Bramwell, Peak Practice and
have persuaded Winston Churchill that the Soldier Soldier.
practice should be reformed forthwith. Strife
is an over-symmetrical but well-crafted strike TRY THESE:
play that carries a powerful punch on stage. ‘NICHOLS ’ A Day in the life of Joe Egg for an earlier
The old Chairman of the Board and the strike play about bringing up a handicapped child, also
leader both suffer from the long strike, and ‘KEARSLEY ’s Wednesday; ‘KEARSLEY ’s Under the
are both repudiated when agreement is Web dealt like Gannon’s Raping the Gold with the
reached on the same terms as were offered at strains of looking after an aged parent; ‘MARIE
the start. Galsworthy meant the play not to JONES ’ The Hamster Wheel and ‘VAN ITALLIE ’s The
take sides, and the cases for capital and labour Traveller deal with post-stroke traumas;
are both strongly made, but his anti-extremist ‘MOTTON , ‘SPENCER for contemporary chroni-
conclusions are too obviously underlined. He cles of the disadvantaged; ‘GLENDINNING ’s
won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1932. Danny Boy also deals with the relationship
between a mother and her brain-damaged son, in
TRY THESE: the context of Northern Ireland.
‘IBSEN for well-crafted plays with a ‘social
message’; ‘GRANVILLE-BARKER and ‘SHAW for
similar concerns, but more experimental GARDNER, Herb [1934 – ]
approaches to character drawing; for other plays American dramatist
about strikes, ‘EDGAR ’s That Summer, ‘ODETS ’
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Waiting for Lefty. A Thousand Clowns (1962), The Goodbye
People (1968), Thieves (1974), Love and/or
Death (1979), I’m Not Rappaport (1984),
Conversations with My Father (1991)
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 110

110 GARRICK, David


Gardner has acquired a reputation for writing with a reliably well-worn plot, involving a new-
commercially successful comedies that at the rich bourgeois trying to buy his two daughters
same time reveal the potential for sadness in into marriages with the minor aristocracy. The
contemporary life. Gardner’s characters are fun arises because the younger daughter is
usually social misfits, rejected by the main- already secretly married to her father’s clerk
stream either because they rebel against and is also fancied by both the aged and lech-
middle-class conventions or because, as in the erous Lord Ogleby (the best part in the play)
case of the elderly men in The Goodbye People and his son; the satirical possibilities of this
and I’m Not Rappaport, the world appears to marriage market are on the whole fudged, and
have no use for them anymore. Inevitably, of course all are reconciled at the end.
however, these characters overcome the dis-
approval of the world around them, usually TRY THESE:
by finding other nonconformists with whom ‘SHERIDAN , ‘GOLDSMITH for more original
they can share a belief in the joy of living. eighteenth-century comedies; ‘BEHN ,
Stylistically, Gardner employs both the long ‘CONGREVE , ‘ETHEREGE , ‘JONSON ,
monologue and the one-liner, and his plays ‘WYCHERLEY for earlier treatments of similar
are flavoured with a particularly New York themes; Garrick is a character in ‘DE ANGELIS ’s A
brand of humour. I’m Not Rappaport is a Laughing Matter.
moving, if sometimes sentimental, comedy
that depicts both the desperation and the
feistiness of two elderly men, one black and GATTI, Armand [1924 – ]
one white, who become friends after meeting French director, dramatist and filmmaker
on a park bench. It won the 1986 Tony Award
PLAYS INCLUDE:
for Best Play. Conversations with My Father
La Deuxième Existence du Camp de Tatenberg
traces a New York Jewish immigrant family
(1962, The Second Existence of the Tatenberg
from the 1930s to the 1970s, exploring the
Camp), La Vie Imaginaire de I’Éboueur
tensions caused by the father’s desire to be
Auguste Geai (1962, The Imaginary Life of the
assimilated into American society.
Streetsweeper August Geai), Chant Public
Devant Deux Chaises Électriques (1966,
TRY THESE:
Public Song in Front of Two Electric Chairs), V
‘SIMON for New York humour; ‘UHRY ’s Driving
as in Vietnam (1967), La Journée d’une infir-
Miss Daisy for ageing across the racial divide; mière (1970, The Day of a Nurse), La Cigogne
‘ALBEE ’s Zoo Story for a different use of a park
(1971, The Stork), La Passion du Général
bench.
Franco (The Passion of General Franco;
banned until 1976), Les Sept Possibilités du
Train 713 en partance d’Auschwitz (1987)
GARRICK, David [1717 – 79]
British actor-manager and dramatist Gatti was born into a poor immigrant family
in Monaco, and spent part of World War II in
PLAYS INCLUDE:
a German labour camp. The concentration
Miss in Her Teens (1747), The Clandestine
camp theme recurs in several of his plays. He
Marriage (1766, with George Colman the
is an engagingly optimistic and energetic
elder), The Irish Widow (1772), Bon Ton; or,
character, who believes that theatre can truly
High Lift Above Stairs (1775)
change the world. He wrote a number of plays
Garrick may have been the greatest actor- on political themes during the l960s, influ-
manager in the history of the British stage, but enced by ‘ADAMOV and Planchon (and of
as a dramatist he was no more than a very course ‘BRECHT ), but often showing a frag-
competent hack. Beside a number of farces, he mentation of character and of reality. For
collaborated with George Colman the elder on example, his semi-autobiographical play, La
The Clandestine Marriage, which is revived Vie Imaginaire de 1’Éboueur Auguste Geai,
from time to time and was, rather surprisingly, shows his father at five different ages, played
filmed in 1999. It is an amiable farcical comedy by five different actors (sometimes all on stage
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 111

GELBART, Larry 111

at once), and in seven possible different sequel that carries heroine Polly Peachum to
spaces on stage. These 1960s plays, on subjects the West Indies, failed to pass the censorship
such as the Chinese Civil War, the execution imposed by Walpole and it was seven years
of Sacco and Vanzetti, and the Vietnam War, before it could be staged. Gay lost most of his
had considerable success all over France. profits in South Sea Bubble speculation and
However, Gatti gradually came to believe that died only four years after his great success.
the audience should participate in the
production rather than merely consume it, TRY THESE:
devoted himself to the production of commu- ‘BRECHT ’s Threepenny Opera reworked the story
nity plays and films on politically sensitive of The Beggar’s Opera, adding a more consciously
themes and often in politically sensitive areas. political polemic and replacing the songs with
He was invited to Londonderry by ‘JOHN new biting lyrics to music by Kurt Weill; Sue
ARDEN in 1984, and his film The Writing On Frumin’s Beggar’s Opry (1990) is a lesbian revision
the Wall (1985) used Catholic teenagers to of Gay’s play; ‘DEAR ’s The Art of Success for
play Protestant characters and vice versa. Walpole’s Licensing Act as an allegory for modern
Unlike ‘ANN JELLICOE , he deals with contem- censorship and his The Villain’s Opera a further
porary events, and aims to stir up the updating of Gay/Brecht; ‘SOYINKA for another
community rather than to reconcile it. His adaptation; Frank Loesser’s Guys and Dolls for a
results are less artistically finished than hers, more sentimental musical approach to thieves
and he provokes more local hostility, but his and rascals; for satires on political corruption, see
activities seem to have no less of a liberating ‘KEEFFE and ‘MROZEK .
effect on the participants.

TRY THESE: GELBART, Larry [1928 – ]


‘EDGAR ’s Entertaining Strangers, ‘ELIOT ’s The American dramatist, lyricist and screenwriter
Rock for community plays; ‘SHERMAN ’s Bent, PLAYS INCLUDE:
‘C. P. TAYLOR ’s Good for other versions of
The Conquering Hero (1961), A Funny Thing
concentration camps.
Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962,
book with Burt Shevelove), The Frogs (1974,
book of musical adapted from
GAY, John [1685 – 1732]
‘ARISTOPHANES ), Sly Fox (1976, adapted
English poet and dramatist from ‘BEN JONSON ), Mastergate (1989), City
PLAYS INCLUDE: of Angels (1989, book of the musical), Power
The Beggar’s Opera (1728), Polly (1729) Failure (1991)
A friend of Jonathan Swift and Alexander Gelbart is one of the most consistently clever
Pope, Gay wrote a number of comedies and writers of comedy in theatre, film (including
the libretto to Handel’s Acis and Galatea but is Tootsie and Bedazzled) and television (notably
remembered largely for The Beggar’s Opera, a as the originator, chief writer and co-producer
send up of the eighteenth-century fashion for of the award-winning series M.A.S.H.). His
Italian opera and a satire on the Prime plays reveal a comic imagination that is at ease
Minister Sir Robert Walpole and his adminis- with a range of forms, from the satire of Sly
tration. It takes a great number of popular Fox, an adaptation of ‘BEN JONSON’s Volpone
songs and folk tunes, provides them with new set in San Francisco during the 1800s, to the
words and sets them in a tale of thieves, farce of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way
whores and highwaymen, which, in turn, to the Forum. The musical City of Angels func-
mirrors the corruption of contemporary tions on several levels, as a parody of the
society. Its first production achieved the then contemporary Hollywood film industry, a love
longest run on the London stage. The play’s letter to the Philip Marlowe/Sam Spade style
popularity continues but its satire is less of movie in the 1940s, and a writer’s examina-
personal now and it survives more for its tion of his commitment to art. Mastergate
lively action and memorable tunes. Polly, a sends up the ‘investigation’ into the Iran
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 112

112 GELBER, Jack


Contra Affair, while Power Failure, structured TRY THESE:
similarly to ‘SCHNITZLER’s La Ronde, satirises ‘PIRANDELLO , ‘SHEPARD for theatrical games-
the abuse of power in the USA. Gelbart brings manship and plays about theatricality; ‘DUNN ’s
to his comedies both a realistic appreciation The Little Heroine for addicts, ‘SACKLER ’s Goodbye,
for the dark side of human nature and an ever- Fidel, ‘TRIANA for Cuba-related works.
hopeful expectation that situations will resolve
themselves happily.
GEMS, Pam [1925 – ]
TRY THESE: British dramatist
‘HAMPTON ’s Tales From Hollywood, ‘KAUFMAN ’s
PLAYS INCLUDE:
and Hart’s Once in a Lifetime, ‘CHARLES WOOD ’s
Betty’s Wonderful Christmas (1972), My
Veterans, for plays about filmmaking; ‘HARE ’s Blue Warren & After Birthday (1973), The Amiable
Room for a version of La Ronde. Courtship of Miz Venus & Wild Bill (1973),
Sarah B Divine (1973), Piaf (1973, produced
1978), Go West Young Woman (1974), Dusa,
GELBER, Jack [1932 – 2003]
Fish, Stas and Vi (1975, originally called
American dramatist Dead Fish), The Project (1976, expanded and
PLAYS INCLUDE: retitled Loving Women, 1984), Guinevere
The Connection (1959), The Apple (1961), (1976), The Rivers and Forests (1976, from
Square in the Eye (1965), The Cuban Thing ‘MARGUERITE DURAS ), My Name is Rosa
(1968), Sleep (1972), Barbary Shore (1974, Luxemburg (1976), Franz in April (1977),
from Norman Mailer), Farmyard (1975, from Queen Christina (1977), Ladybird, Ladybird
‘KROETZ ), Rehearsal (1976), Starters (1980), (1979), Sandra (1979), The Treat (1982),
Big Shot (1988), Magic Valley (1990) Aunt Mary (1982), Camille (1984), The
Danton Affair (1986, from Stanislawa
‘I have no theory of the theatre to proclaim’,
Przybyszewska), The Blue Angel (1991, from
Gelber once announced, but the Chicago-
Heinrich Mann), Deborah’s Daughter (1994),
born dramatist nonetheless remains associ-
Marlene (1996), Stanley (1996), The Snow
ated with the breakdown of the fourth wall
Palace (1998), Mrs Pat (2003)
and a freer, looser theatrical style in keeping
with the improvisatory off-Broadway climate Socialist realist, mother of four, Gems is one
in which he was spawned. Gelber got his start of the few women dramatists to span two
with New York’s Living Theatre, who generations. Rooted in a working-class
performed what remains his best-known consciousness with a racy, pungent turn of
work, The Connection, a piece about drug phrase, she did not, in fact, take up writing
addiction featuring its own play-within-a- full time till after forty, though she had writ-
play. Celebrated both for its bold realism and ten scripts for radio and television whilst also
its seeming formlessness, The Connection bringing up her children and had been
opened to general pans (‘oh man! what junk!’ involved with the early feminism of the 1970s.
cried one critic), but time has bolstered its More than any other writer, she consistently
reputation as a frontrunner of the drama of explores the dilemmas and specificity of what
the dispossessed typified by Miguel Pinero, it is to be female in a world still largely domi-
‘ SAM SHEPARD and ‘ LANFORD WILSON . nated by men. Her best-known play, Piaf,
None of his later plays has garnered equal which started out at the RSC’s studio theatre
attention, although their subjects range from and ended up triumphant on Broadway, was a
scientists in a sleep lab (Sleep) to an overtly typically earthy – some called it rude –
theatrical piece about the nature of the debunking of the myth surrounding the Little
theatre (Rehearsal) in which a play is cast, Sparrow. Piaf ’s battle to overcome the pres-
developed, and then cancelled. Since 1972, sures of fame, alcohol and drugs is also the
Gelber has been devoting the bulk of his story, warts and all, of a gritty, working-class
energies to teaching as a Professor of English woman searching for economic and sexual
at Brooklyn College in New York City. independence – a treatment Gems served up
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 113

GENET, Jean 113

also in Camille, which stripped Dumas’ humour of his group; ‘HAMPTON ’s Tales from
original of its sentimentality to show the high Hollywood includes ‘BRECHT , ‘HORVATH ,
price of love in a money-regulated market. Thomas and Heinrich Mann as characters; ‘TERRY
Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi, the play that put Gems JOHNSON ’s Insignificance and Hitchcock Blonde for
on the map, is a reiteration of these pressures, dumb blonde stereotypes.
worked out through four young women of
the ‘post-pill’ generation, a theme which
consistently intrigued Gems, a pre-war and GENET, Jean [1910 – 86]
wartime young mother. It is a pioneering French novelist, poet and dramatist
work in its depiction of women struggling
PLAYS INCLUDE:
towards self-fulfilment, confronted with
Les Bonnes (1946, The Maids), Splendid’s
problems of sexuality (anorexia, rejected
(1948), Haute Surveillance (1949,
love), child-rearing (the children have been
Deathwatch), Le Balcon (1956, The Balcony),
taken by a former husband) and survival (one
Les Nègres (1959, The Blacks), Les Paravents
character, a physiotherapist by day, is a high-
(1961, The Screens)
earning prostitute by night), yet still support-
ive of each other. A delinquent and thief who spent much of his
Gender is also at the heart of the epic first thirty years in reformatory or jail, where
Queen Christina, which juggles with the he began to write, Genet was released from a
contradictions of gender stereotyping and life-sentence on the plea of ‘JEAN-PAUL SARTRE
choices (Queen Christina was brought up as a and other French existentialist luminaries who
man but longs in the end to give birth; Gems recognised his prodigious talent. Even those
calls it her ‘uterine’ play), and the less success- repelled by the subject matter of his books, in
ful transvestite farce, Aunt Mary. The Danton which he presents the violence and vice of
Affair, another epic, but based on the manu- criminals and prostitutes as a mixture of lumi-
script of Stanislawa Przybyszewska, unusually nous beauty and masturbatory fantasy, can be
for Gems centres on two male protagonists, reached by his plays, which act as a mirror to
and stands rather as an implicit homage by the ‘normal’ world in which he sees true vice
Gems to the almost forgotten creativity of the and corruption. The tough dream objects and
young Polish woman writer whom she also fantasising homosexuals of his novels and his
featured in The Snow Palace. She has adapted romantic obsession with homosexuality give
works by ‘CHEKHOV , ‘IBSEN and ‘LORCA as place to more accessible portraits of men
part of what now looks like a career-long outside society in the prisoner relationships of
engagement with the creation and mainte- Deathwatch and to more abstract studies of
nance of images of women, both in the plays private and public exploitation and inter-
of key male dramatists and in fictional and dependence in The Balcony and The Blacks. His
stage and screen stars from Piaf to Mrs Patrick theatre is often ritualistic and abstract, its form
Campbell via Marlene Dietrich and one of sometimes echoing Catholic liturgy. Cross-
her most famous roles in The Blue Angel. If casting, both sexual and racial, is intended in
Stanley stands out for having a male title, her The Maids and The Blacks. The Screens echoes
treatment of the artist Stanley Spencer the Algerian struggle for independence but the
concentrates on his relations with women. other plays offer a more general criticism of
society, playing on the prejudices of the audi-
TRY THESE: ence to intensify their effect. As well as fiction
For female stereotypes ‘CHURCHILL ’s Top Girls, and autobiographical works, Genet wrote three
‘DANIELS , ‘DE ANGELIS , ‘HOLBOROUGH ’s screenplays and a ballet scenario.
Dreams of San Francisco; Clare Booth Luce’s The
Women; for bitchy and unsupportive males, The Balcony
‘ELYOT , ‘PINTER ’s No Man’s Land; ‘LUDLAM ’s Set in a brothel where representatives of
Camille for a quite different debunking of Dumas; establishment power groups – church, police,
Gems has described her dramatist son Jonathan etc. – act out their fantasies while a revolution
as encapsulating ‘the nihilism, the anarchic brews outside, The Balcony turns a mirror on
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 114

114 GILBERT, W. S.
a society that it sees as a whorehouse. Its degree the fundamental Gilbertian discrep-
images, drawn from the conventional reper- ancy between the characters’ noble speeches
toire of the pornographer, are not used to and their actual intentions; the humble but
titillate but to show how people wilfully warm-hearted Scottish peasants whom we
preserve the sham of conventional society and find exchanging highly moral platitudes as
power structures. It offers a challenge to the curtain rises rapidly prove to be an
directors and to audiences to convey and updated version of Cornish wreckers – they
comprehend the twists and turns of its ideas derail trains so that they can rob the passen-
and provides an opportunity for an Artaudian gers; and under the many romantic protesta-
theatricality. tions of true love (Cheviot Hill, the hero,
manages to become engaged to three women
TRY THESE: at once) lies simple fiscal arithmetic. It was
‘WEISS , whose Marat/Sade uses a madhouse for revived at the Orange Tree, Richmond, as a
its charades and demands similar virtuoso stag- Christmas entertainment in 2002 where its
ing; John Herbert’s Fortune and Men’s Eyes and satire on cupidity still seemed fresh, even if
‘PUIG ’s Kiss of the Spider Woman for homosexuals the wordplay did not appeal to all tastes.
in prison; Lindsay Kemp for his work based on In the operas, too, things are seldom what
Genet; ‘CHURCHILL ’s Cloud Nine for the use of they seem; the highest principles are applied in
cross-casting; ‘BEHAN for alternative treatments a way which somehow produces the most
of prison life and the brothel setting; material benefit, as with Pooh-Bah’s readiness
‘KESSELMAN ’s My Sister in This House for feminist to humble his family pride for the smallest of
treatment of the real-life incident at Le Mans that bribes; this combines happily with the
gave rise to The Maids; ‘BARTLETT for the British Carrollian logic of a world in which (for exam-
premiere of Splendid’s. ple) all problems are resolved by the mere
insertion of a ‘not’ in a royal decree (Iolanthe).

GILBERT, (Sir) W(illiam) TRY THESE:


S(chwenck) [1836 – 1911] Edward Bulwer Lytton’s recently revived Money for
English librettist, dramatist and director an earlier Victorian account of the corrosive
effects of (lack of ) money; ‘WILDE for similarities
PLAYS INCLUDE:
to Engaged in The Importance of Being Earnest;
The Palace of Truth (1870), Pygmalion and
‘STOPPARD for variations on the adventures of
Galatea (1871), Dan’l Druce, Blacksmith
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern; ‘ORTON for the
(1876), Engaged (1877), Rosencrantz and
deadpan delivery of preposterous sentiments.
Guildenstern (1891)

Savoy Operas GILL, Peter [1939 – ]


(with music by Sir Arthur Sullivan) include: British actor, director and dramatist
Thespis (1871), Trial by Jury (1875), HMS
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Pinafore (1878), The Pirates of Penzance
The Sleeper’s Den (1966), A Provincial Life
(1879), Patience (1881), Iolanthe (1882),
(1966, from ‘CHEKHOV ), Over Gardens Out
Princess Ida (1884), The Mikado (1885),
(1969), Small Change (1976), Kick for Touch
Ruddigore (1887), The Yeoman of the Guard
(1983), As I Lay Dying (1985, from William
(1888), The Gondoliers (1889), Utopia
Faulkner) In the Blue (1985), Mean Tears
Limited (1893), The Grand Duke (1896)
(1987), Cardiff East (1997), Certain Young
Men (1999), Friendly Fire (1999), The York
Although Gilbert’s real claim to fame must be
Realist (2001), Original Sin (2002)
as the librettist half of Gilbert and Sullivan, he
was also a considerable (and at times rather Welshman Gill began his theatrical career as
sour) dramatist in his own right, ranging an actor, but has been largely known as a
from burlesque-extravaganza to comedy to director since he attracted attention with a
straight melodrama. Engaged shows to a high sensitive and very naturalistic production of
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 115

GILMAN, Rebecca 115

‘D. H. LAWRENCE ’s A Collier’s Saturday Night charting the parameters of personal pain in
at the Royal Court (1965). An associate relationships are ‘AYCKBOURN , ‘GODBER ,
director at the Royal Court (1970–2) and ‘RAIF , ‘SPENCER ; ‘KEARSLEY , ‘STOREY ,
Director of Riverside Studios (1976–80), he ‘WILCOX ’s Accounts for rugby (league and
joined the National Theatre where, from 1984 union). ‘GODFREY for a National Theatre protégé,
to 1990, he was director of the Studio, under Gill; ‘HARRISON for the Mysteries;
running experimental workshops for ‘RAVENHILL ’s Mother Clapp’s Molly House for gay
performers and developing new work with communities.
writers, as well as directing for the main audi-
toria. In 2002 the Sheffield Crucible organised
a festival of his work that included his own GILMAN, Rebecca [1965 – ]
staging of his new work Original Sin. American dramatist
Of his own plays, The Sleeper’s Den is a
PLAYS INCLUDE:
naturalistic study of a poverty-stricken
The Glory of Living (1997), Spinning into
housewife pressured into breakdown by the
Butter (1999), Crime of the Century (2000),
indifference and demands of her family. Later
Boy Gets Girl (2000), Blue Surge (2001)
plays have been more abstract – indeed often
highly elliptical – but focus as relentlessly on Gilman has been championed by the
what would seem to be semi-autobiographi- Goodman Theatre, Chicago, and by the Royal
cal memories taken from Gill’s Welsh back- Court, winning awards on both sides of the
ground. Over Gardens Out with its two Atlantic for The Glory of Living, a depiction of
misunderstood boys driven by violence is also Southern trailer trash that successfully skirted
an impressionistic emotional battle in both the potential for caricature to create a portrait
past and present. Obsessive rugby-playing of an abusive way of life that explored moral-
male bonding plays a damaging role in both ity and violence in a way that reminded some
Small Change (the scars left by an adolescent critics of ‘EDWARD BOND. In Spinning into
sexual relationship) and Kick for Touch (the Butter Gilman dared to unpick some of the
triangular relationship of two brothers and a complex issues around racist attitudes and
wife). Mean Tears is an episodic emotionally how they get dealt with in a university;
compelling presentation of a hopelessly ill- unsurprisingly, it has become very popular on
balanced affair between a vaguely academic or American campuses. Gilman dramatises a
literary figure and his younger bisexual love real-life Chicago mass murder from the 1960s
object. Cardiff East returns to the community in Crime of the Century, focusing on the
issues of The Sleeper’s Den. Certain Young Men victims rather than the murderer whose face
is about contemporary homosexual life, while is never seen. This is something of a Gilman
a play for young people, Friendly Fire, trademark since the original complainant
explores a typical Gill theme of people being never appears in Spinning into Butter, and in
in love with the wrong people. In The York Boy Gets Girl, an exploration of some of the
Realist Gill returns to 1962 and stages a murky territory of harassment and how it can
cross-class homosexual love across the destabilise the person who is being harassed,
North–South divide in the context of a the harasser himself vanishes from the action.
production of the York mystery plays. Blue Surge deals with the developing relation-
Original Sin is a gender-reversed version of ships between two policemen and two
‘WEDEKIND ’s Lulu. prostitutes.

TRY THESE: TRY THESE:


‘CHURCHILL ’s Fen, ‘WARD ’s Apart from George ‘MAMET generally for parallels, and Oleanna
for imprisoned emotions (in rural East Anglian specifically, for political correctness in an academic
communities); for the painful distance between environment; ‘SIMON GRAY for politically incorrect
speech and silence in personal relationships, see academics; ‘CLARE MCINTYRE’s Low Level Panic for
‘BECKETT , ‘CHEKHOV , ‘DURAS , ‘MAMET , stalking; ‘BECKETT’s Waiting for Godot and ‘ODETS’
‘PINTER , ‘SHEPARD ; other contemporaries Waiting for Lefty for absent characters.
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 116

116 GIRAUDOUX, Jean


GIRAUDOUX, Jean [1882 – 1944] GLASPELL, Susan [1882 – 1948]
French dramatist American dramatist
PLAYS INCLUDE: PLAYS INCLUDE:
Siegfried (1928), Amphitryon 38 (1929), Suppressed Desires (1915, with George Cram
Intermezzo (1933), La Guerre de Troie N’aura Cook), Trifles (1916), The Outside (1917),
Pas Lieu (1935, Tiger at the Gates or The Bernice (1919), Inheritors (1921), The Verge
Trojan War Will Not Take Place), Électre (1921), Alison’s House (1930)
(1937, Electra), Ondine (1939), Sodome et
With the exception of productions of The
Gomorrhe (1943, Sodom and Gomorrah), La
Verge and Inheritors at the Orange Tree,
Folle de Chaillot (1945, The Madwoman of
Richmond, Glaspell has been virtually
Chaillot), Pour Lucrèce (1953, Duel of Angels)
neglected by the British theatre. A founder of
Giraudoux, a diplomat until 1940, was forty- the influential Provincetown Players with her
six when the actor/director Louis Jouvet husband George Cram Cook and ‘EUGENE
urged him to try adapting his novel Siegfried O’NEILL , she played an important part in
et le Limousin, the story of a Frenchman establishing the serious American theatre but
brought up as a German who has to choose the majority of her plays are now neglected.
between his nationalities. The great success of Trifles, a murder mystery which presents an
his plays in the 1930s was largely due to the acute account of different understandings of
continued partnership with Jouvet, whose the nature of events and motivations on the
inventive staging and superb acting combined basis of gender, is finely observed but too
with Giraudoux’s verbal glitter to cover any short to be frequently revived professionally.
deficiencies in the dramatic action. Several of Inheritors, a well-crafted longer play, which
the plays show the fashionable 1930s French examines the corruption of the pioneering
interest in updating Greek myth. The most spirit and the American dream, sheds light on
successful of these was La Guerre de Troie the historic roots of many contemporary
N’aura Pas Lieu, into which he put all his American attitudes. The Verge, with its
strong conviction that the French and the heroine on the point of a breakthrough into
Germans were not natural enemies. World either madness or understanding, anticipates
War II, therefore, came as a particular catas- the hothouse atmosphere of ‘TENNESSEE
trophe for Giraudoux, who on the outbreak WILLIAMS . Bernice and Alison’s House (based
of war was set to run French propaganda, as on Emily Dickinson’s life) share the device of
an unlikely rival to Dr Goebbels. an offstage female protagonist with Trifles; an
In 1955 Kenneth Tynan called The Trojan economical way of suggesting the absences
War Will Not Take Place the ‘highest peak in that can constitute the notion of ‘woman’.
the mountain-range of modern French
theatre’, but fashion has moved against TRY THESE:
Giraudoux (as against ‘CHRISTOPHER FRY , There is a ‘STRINDBERGIAN quality in Glaspell’s
who translated it as Tiger at the Gates), whose analysis of the ways marriage can work, although
work is now seldom seen in Britain. her conclusions unsurprisingly differ from his; for
another view of women from the same period try
TRY THESE: Sophie Treadwell’s Machinal; the contrast
Claudel for poetic rhetoric; ‘ANOUILH , between a desire for immolation and a desire for
‘COCTEAU , Gide, ‘SARTRE for relating classical life in The Outside anticipates ‘BECKETT ; ‘NOEL
legends or Greek play themes to contemporary GREIG takes up similar themes in Poppies, as does
French concerns; ‘CHURCHILL and ‘LAN ’s A ‘TERRY in Approaching Simone.
Mouthful of Birds is based on ‘EURIPIDES ’ The
Bacchae, as is ‘DUFFY ’s Rites; ‘WERTENBAKER ’s
Love of the Nightingale for another reworking of
Greek legend.
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 117

GODBER, John 117

GLENDINNING, Robin [1938 – ] Glowacki was in London in December 1981


Northern Irish dramatist when martial law was declared in Poland; he
chose not to return to his country and
PLAYS INCLUDE:
emigrated with his family to New York City.
Jennifer’s Vacation (1982, also known as
His plays generally focus on the experience of
Stuffing It), Mumbo Jumbo (1986), Culture
political repression that his characters live
Vultures (1988), Donny Boy (1990)
with, even in the most supposedly free society,
Glendinning was raised on a farm in County America. The mood of his plays tends to be
Armagh and educated at Trinity College tragicomic, for the world that Glowacki
Dublin where he read modern history and depicts mingles horror with irony, the poten-
political science. He taught for eleven years tial for imminent death with man’s apparently
before co-founding the moderate Alliance uncontrollable urge to persist. Like other
Party of Northern Ireland in 1970. He worked post-World War II Polish dramatists, such as
as its full-time organiser for five years and Tadeusz Rozewicz and ‘MROZEK , Glowacki’s
stood unsuccessfully for election on two occa- style is grounded in absurdist theatre, yet he
sions. He combined a return to teaching with also brings to his writing a humanism and
a new career as a radio dramatist and quickly compassion that make his plays particularly
established a firm reputation. The Northern accessible to western audiences. Hunting
Irish troubles form an inevitable backdrop to Cockroaches presents as its central metaphor
Glendinning’s work, which is concerned more the image of two émigrés, a married couple,
broadly with questions of community and isolated and in effect imprisoned in their
individual identity. His first work for the stage roach-infested Manhattan tenement. Like the
was Jennifer’s Vacation, an adaptation of one two men in ‘BECKETT ’s Waiting for Godot, the
of his own radio plays, produced at the man and woman, ‘He’ and ‘She’, talk with each
Dublin Festival. He was joint winner of the other obsessively in order to keep their
Manchester Royal Exchange’s 1986 Mobil desperation at bay. The habit of living with
Playwriting Competition for Mumbo Jumbo. political repression has made them fearful
In Donny Boy, Donny, who is mentally even in their new environment, and they
impaired, is left holding the gun that killed an experience the economic and social pressures
RUC officer, and his Catholic mother has to of their new country as yet another form of
cope with her own complex and wildly tyranny, which renders them impotent.
confused loyalties. In this harrowing thriller,
set in the Belfast battlefield, the terror of TRY THESE:
everyday life is tempered by much laughter. ‘KUREISHI (who adapted Cinders), ‘PINTER for
obsessive talking on the edge of disaster; The
TRY THESE: Fourth Sister draws on ‘CHEKHOV ; ‘STOPPARD
‘MARIE JONES , ‘MORNIN , ‘REID for writers for another take on minor characters from
whose plays, rooted in Belfast, are also concerned Hamlet, ‘SHAKESPEARE for the play Fortinbras
with community and the effects of violence; comes from; ‘SOPHOCLES for Antigone.
‘HEGGIE and ‘WALL for other Mobil Award
winners; ‘GANNON ’s Keeping Tom Nice and
‘NICHOLS ’ A Day in the Death of Joe Egg for caring GODBER, John [1956 – ]
for children with disabilities; ‘O’CASEY for earlier British dramatist and director
Irish troubles.
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Up ’n’ Under (1984), Bouncers (1985),
Shakers (1986, with Jane Thornton) Blood
GLOWACKI, Janusz [1938 – ]
Sweat and Tears (1986), Cramp (1986),
Polish-born dramatist Putting on the Ritz (1987), Teechers (1987),
PLAYS INCLUDE: Salt of the Earth (1988), On the Piste (1990),
Cinders (1981), Hunting Cockroaches (1985), Shakers Re-stirred (1991, with Jane
Fortinbras Gets Drunk (1990), Antigone in Thornton), Bouncers – 1990’s Remix (1991),
New York (1993), The Fourth Sister (2000) Happy Families (1991), April in Paris (1992),
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 118

118 GODFREY, Paul


Up ’n’ Under II (1993), Passion Killers (1994), TRY THESE:
Dracula (1995, with Jane Thornton), Lucky ‘AYCKBOURN for similar productivity and long-
Sods (1995), Gym and Tonic (1996), Weekend term commitment to theatre outside London;
Breaks (1997), It Started with a Kiss (1997), ‘LUCKHAM’s Trafford Tanzi, ‘PAGE’s Golden Girls,
Hooray for Hollywood (1998), The Weed ‘SACKLER’s The Great White Hope, ‘STOREY’s The
(1998), Perfect Pitch (1998), Unleashed Changing Room, ‘WILLIAMSON’s The Club, for plays
(1998), Thick as a Brick (1999), Big Trouble with sport as a central element; ‘RUSSELL’s Stags
in the Little Bedroom (1999), Seasons in the and Hens is the disco play; ‘BERKOFF for physical
Sun (2000), On a Night Like This (2000), Our theatre; ‘NIGEL WILLIAMS’ Class Enemy for a class-
House (2001), Departures (2001) room play; ‘LEIGH for questions of caricature.

The son of a miner, Godber began writing


short stories for Radio Sheffield at the age of GODFREY, Paul [1960 – ]
sixteen, trained as a teacher and taught for British dramatist
five years, while doing postgraduate work in
PLAYS INCLUDE:
drama at the University of Leeds. He has
Inventing a New Colour (1986), Once in a
worked for television and scripted the film of
While the Odd Thing Happens (1990), A
Up ’n’ Under but he is most closely associated
Bucket of Eels (1994), The Blue Ball (1995),
with the Hull Truck Theatre Co, of which he
The Modern Husband (1995, from Henry
has been artistic director since 1984. Godber
Fielding), The Invisible Woman (1996, from
has said: ‘I think the theatre should be excit-
Terence), The Candidate (1997, from Gustave
ing. It should involve action.’ His involvement
Flaubert)
with Hull Truck is an expression of his
commitment to a genuinely serious popular Godfrey trained and worked as a director in
theatre, and also to a theatre outside London, Scotland before turning to writing. As a
as opposition to the enshrining of ‘theatre’ at product of the National’s studio wing (which,
the National Theatre and the RSC. Most of his under ‘PETER GILL, gave both Inventing a
plays are social comedies that take place in Colour and Once in a While workshop produc-
public arenas and are generally concerned tions) Godfrey’s style – spare, elliptical, frag-
with what Godber has called ‘working class mented – bears a certain comparison with
leisure activities’; Up’n’ Under and Cramp Gill’s own work. Inventing a New Colour even
(which is about a body-builder, and has music has similar protagonists to those in Gill’s Small
by Tom Robinson) both take a sport as their Change. However, whereas Gill’s youngsters
central device. Intensely physical pieces of and mothers reflected the pain of growing up
theatre, they draw heavily on caricature for in rugby-dominated Wales, Godfrey, who
effect, as do Bouncers and Putting on the Ritz, comes from Exeter, locates his lads in Devon
both of which are set in discos. Up ’n’ Under, during World War II. And his tale of Peter, the
which won the Laurence Olivier Comedy of London evacuee, billeted on a middle-class
the Year Award for 1984, is about rugby league couple and their own son, Francis, suggested –
(Godber is himself a rugby player), which though perhaps not as clearly as some would
becomes a means of exploring the contradic- have liked – a sense of lives destroyed beyond
tions of machismo and the energy and repair, ‘a poetic elegy for the world before the
resources devoted to the game, and also war’ as one critic put it.
becomes a powerful image of resources that Godfrey’s concern with mood and atmos-
have gone to waste in contemporary Britain phere seemed further distilled in the tone
(body building is used similarly in Cramp). poem-like Once in a While. Intending to
Bouncers, similarly, adopts a fairly ambivalent mount a production of Benjamin Britten’s
stance towards its macho, working-class Noyes Fludde in Scotland, Godfrey had met
characters – celebratory, but there’s also Peter Pears just before he died, an event that
something distinctly distasteful about this lot. clearly inspired further enquiry into the
nature of artistic creativity and resulted even-
tually in Once in a While.
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 119

GOETHE, Johann Wolfgang von 119

Far from sensationalising the possible inti- 1817, when he was displaced by an actress
macies of the ‘AUDEN –Britten, Britten–Pears who had the advantage of being the Grand
relationships, Godfrey opted instead for an Duke’s mistress. From a literary point of view,
understatement of expression that drew harsh his reign was a golden age – besides his own
criticism from some as ‘precious’ and ‘lean, plays, he put on most of ‘SCHILLER ’s – but as
bloodless realism’ but moved Helen Rose of a director he was less successful, finding it
Time Out to describe the play’s images as difficult to get on with the less intelligent
lingering ‘in the mind with the pleasing insis- actors, and tending to drill them. In a two-
tence of a beautiful melody’. year absence in Italy he wrote Iphigenia in
Tauris (from ‘ EURIPIDES ) and Torquato
TRY THESE: Tasso, a study of a poetic hero with emotional
‘MACDONALD for Britain in the Blitz; ‘HARE and difficulties that were not unlike his own.
‘LOWE for wartime Britain; ‘CRIMP for a British
contemporary with a tendency to write scenes in Faust
a short, televisual mode; ‘POWNALL’ s Master Goethe’s last play, the two parts of Faust, was
Class for a contrasting treatment of musical written over a long period, and is usually
composition. regarded as unactable, though from time to
time somebody is rash enough to try to scale
its dizzying heights. The story of the scholar
GOETHE, Johann tempted by the devil to barter his soul for the
Wolfgang von [1749 – 1832] things of this world was already well known,
German dramatist and poet but Goethe turned it into a vast poem on the
destiny of man, and his Faust is redeemed at
PLAYS INCLUDE:
the end (which led George Steiner to call it
Götz von Berlichingen (1773), Clavigo (1774),
‘sublime melodrama’). The style of the play
Stella (1775), Egmont (1788, produced 1796),
shifts from broad farce to high tragedy and
Iphigenia in Tauris (1779, second (verse)
most stages in between without warning,
version 1787), Torquato Tasso (1789,
changing verse forms as it goes. There have
produced 1807), Faust Part I (published
been many attempts to put it on in English,
1808), Faust Part II (published post-
usually making much of the Gretchen
humously 1833)
episode. ‘ HOWARD BRENTON produced a
Goethe studied in Leipzig, like the young ‘vigorous, colloquial and often very funny’
Faust, and like him studied alchemy and (Guardian) version for the RSC in 1995.
forbidden subjects. Götz von Berlichingen was
written in what he hoped was a TRY THESE:
‘SHAKESPEAREAN manner, under the eager ‘MARLOWE for Dr Faustus, ‘HAVEL for
influence of Herder; the result is a story of an Temptation, ‘WERTENBAKER for Faustian
honourable robber knight in revolt against bargains; ‘IBSEN ’s Peer Gynt has Faustian redemp-
tyrannical rulers, and a very untidy construc- tive overtones; ‘EDGAR ’s Nicholas Nickleby,
tion. Clavigo is a curiosity, presenting a ‘BRENTON and ‘HARE ’s Pravda and Brassneck for
heightened version of ‘ BEAUMARCHAIS ’s epic scale; Helen of Troy, who figures in both
real-life journey to Spain to avenge his sister’s Goethe’s and ‘MARLOWE ’s treatments of the
seduction and abandonment by a Spaniard. Faust story also figures in ‘SHAKESPEARE ’s Troilus
In Egmont the hero is again shown as a noble and Cressida, ‘EURIPIDES ’ Trojan Women, Helen,
and honourable humanist who goes to his Orestes and ‘GIRAUDOUX ’s The Trojan War Will
death as a fighter against tyranny in the revolt Not Take Place; Iphigenia in Tauris is a reworking of
of the Netherlands against Spain. Goethe ‘EURIPIDES ’ play of the same name; ‘BOND ’s The
began the play just before accepting an invita- Fool (about John Clare) and ‘BRENTON ’s Bloody
tion to Weimar, where he inadvertently stayed Poetry (about the Shelleys and Byron) are other
for the rest of his life, becoming Finance plays about poets to contrast with Goethe’s
Minister and Lord High everything else. He treatment of Tasso; Robert David Macdonald for
managed the Court Theatre from 1791 until another translation of Faust.
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 120

120 GOGOL, Nikolai Vasilevich


GOGOL, Nikolai Hostess (1753, also known as Mirandolina), Il
Vasilevich [1809 – 52] Campiello (1756), The Mania for the Country,
Russian novelist and dramatist The Adventure in the Country and The Return
from the Country (1761, a trilogy), Le Baruffe
PLAYS INCLUDE: chiozzotte (1762, The Chioggian Quarrels),
The Government Inspector (1836), Marriage The Fan (1763)
(1842), The Gamblers (1842)
Gogol worked as a civil servant, took a course Goldoni wrote his first play at eleven and ran
in painting, tried to become an actor and away with some travelling players at fourteen.
lectured on medieval history – failing at them He practised law for a short time before a
all – before he achieved success with two tragicomedy, Belisario, was accepted for
volumes of Ukrainian tales in 1831–2. He is performance in 1734 and he became the
best known for his novel Dead Souls (of which dramatist of the Teatro San Samuele in
he destroyed a second volume shortly before Venice. For thirty years he tried to change the
his death) and the comedy The Government pattern of Venetian theatre before accepting
Inspector, of which he wrote: ‘I decided to the post of Director of the Comédie Italienne
collect everything that was evil in Russia, all in Paris. He remained in Paris until his death.
the injustices committed in places where He wrote about 200 plays in Italian or
justice is most of all expected of man – and French, the majority of them comedies. Very
laugh it off.’ The play is a satire on official few of them have been seen in Britain in
corruption in a small provincial town where recent years and productions have too often
an impecunious impostor is mistaken for a been conceived in commedia dell’arte style
government official making an inspection. when, in fact, Goldoni’s intention was to
The Government Inspector introduced a replace the improvised and now debased
grotesque farcical realism to the Russian commedia with scripted plays which would
theatre. Its humour found an instant response reflect and comment on contemporary
and aroused considerable official anger that society. But he did not want to lose his audi-
for a time drove Gogol from Russia. Its ence – he had to wean them gradually. He
frequent revivals show how little the basic considered that, ‘the secret of the art of
satire dates and the name part has provided a writing comedy is to cling to nature and never
vehicle for some outstanding interpretations. leave her’ and, because his comedy is rooted
In Britain Jatinder Verma’s 1988 transposition in the way people behave rather than topical
of the play to post-colonial, small-town India political satire, much of it remains relevant
was particularly successful. ‘JOHN BYRNE and today. His comedies are mainly of middle-
‘MARIE JONES have also done recent versions. class life and they become increasingly sharp
and critical. There is no ‘typical’ Goldoni play.
TRY THESE: The Servant of Two Masters comes early in his
‘FO and ‘GELBART for similar broad satire of campaign of reform and still retains much of
petty officials; ‘BRENTON and ‘HARE ’s Brassneck, the structure of commedia with its fast-
‘FLANNERY ’s Our Friends in the North for local moving farce. The Venetian Twins looks like a
government corruption; ‘COLLINS ’ The Strongest classic mistaken identity comedy until one of
Man in the World as a modern equivalent; the twins is killed mid-play never to return.
‘KEEFFE ’s many social satires; ‘IBSEN ’s Pillars of
Society for Norwegian hypocrisy and corruption in TRY THESE:
high places; ‘BULGAKOV dramatised Dead Souls. ‘BEAUMARCHAIS ’s Marriage of Figaro for its treat-
ment of servant and master relationships;
‘MOLIÈRE , writing in a more formal style, is more
GOLDONI, Carlo [1707 – 93] savage in exposing bourgeois and aristocratic
Italian dramatist hypocrisies; for dramatists in the Goldoni tradi-
tion, ‘DE FILIPPO and ‘FO ; ‘SHAKESPEARE ’s
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Belisario (1734), The Servant of Two Masters
Twelfth Night and Comedy of Errors for the
expected version of separated twins;
(1746), The Venetian Twins (1748), Mine
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 121

GOOCH, Steve 121

‘BOUCICAULT ’s The Corsican Twins and GOOCH, Steve [1945 – ]


‘RUSSELL ’s Blood Brothers for other variations on British dramatist and translator
a theme.
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Will Wat, If Not, Wat Will? (1972), Female
Transport (1973), The Motor Show (1974,
GOLDSMITH, Oliver [1730 – 74]
with Paul Thompson), Strike ’26 (1975, with
Irish dramatist and man of letters Frank McDermott), Made in Britain (1976,
PLAYS INCLUDE: with Paul Thompson), Back-Street Romeo
The Good-Natured Man (1768), She Stoops to (1977), The Woman Pirates Ann Bonney and
Conquer (1773) Mary Read (1978), Future Perfect (1980, with
‘MICHELENE WANDOR and Paul Thompson),
Goldsmith appears to have been an attrac-
Landmark (1980, revised version of Our
tively indigent figure in fashionable London
Land, Our Lives, 1976), Fast One (1982),
society who, as well as earning the friendship
What Brothers Are For (1983, from Terence’s
of Dr Johnson, amongst other notables, wrote
The Brothers), Taking Liberties (1984), Star
one play, one poem and one novel that have
Turns (1987)
stood the test of time (She Stoops to Conquer,
‘The Deserted Village’ and The Vicar Of Keenly interested in community theatre,
Wakefield). Few eighteenth-century drama- Gooch has pursued an interest in the labour
tists find a regular place in the current movement, class and gender issues that has
repertory but She Stoops to Conquer, a genial not brought him great recognition, although
comedy of manners, owes much of its contin- The Motor Show is an important example of
uing popularity to its combination of the the 1970s desire to create theatre for workers
sentimental and the satirical. The central at their workplaces. He has found genuinely
character, Kate Hardcastle, uses great skill to interesting subjects such as the Peasants’
expose the contemporary double standard of Revolt of 1381 in Will Wat, nineteenth-
sexual morality and force the otherwise eligi- century transportation of women convicts
ble Charles Marlow to come to terms with his from Britain to Australia in Female Transport
own sexism. These characters are surrounded or late eighteenth-century mock elections
by foils, each with a prevailing character trait involving Samuel Foote and John Wilkes in
that allows actors considerable scope for Taking Liberties, but even his treatment of the
comic invention. A National Theatre revival potentially fascinating story of Ann Bonney
in 2002 paired it with A Laughing Matter by and Mary Read in The Woman Pirates failed to
‘APRIL DE ANGELIS , a new play examining the convince in an ill-received and short-lived
circumstances that made ‘DAVID GARRICK RSC production. His translations include
turn it down as too risky. ‘BRECHT ’s The Mother and Man is Man,
Harald Mueller’s Delinquent, Big Wolf, Rosie
TRY THESE: and Flotsam, Fassbinder’s Cock-Artist, Martin
‘SHERIDAN is the only other late eighteenth- Walser’s Säntis, and ‘KROETZ ’s Home Work.
century British dramatist whose work is regularly His 1982 version of ‘ LOPE DE VEGA ’s
performed; the ‘Restoration’ dramatists ‘BEHN , Fuenteovejuna, in which a village defeats a
‘CONGREVE , ‘ETHEREGE , ‘WYCHERLEY offer local tyrant through collective action, was an
more robust treatments of similar themes; apt combination of Gooch’s own political
Goldsmith’s Kate herself refers to similarities interests and his talent for adaptation. His
between ‘FARQUHAR ’s Beaux’ Stratagem and her other adaptations include works by Dickens,
play, while her name points to ‘SHAKESPEARE ’s Tankred Dorst and Voltaire as well as
The Taming of the Shrew, in which the situation is ‘WEDEKIND ’s Lulu plays and The Marquis of
reversed. Keith.

TRY THESE:
‘WESKER ’s Caritas is also set at the time of the
Peasants’ Revolt; ‘BRIDIE also wrote on Bonney
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 122

122 GOLDSMITH, Oliver

She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith, directed by Max Stafford-Clark, National Theatre and Out
of Joint, 2002. Owen Sharpe as Tony Lumpkin, Jane Wood as Mrs Hardcastle. (Colin Willoughby/
ArenaPAL)
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 123

GORKY, Maxim (Alexei Maximovitch Peshkov) 123

and Read:‘JELLICOE for community theatre; is powerful and sincere and found its most
‘BARKER , ‘BRENTON , ‘EDGAR , ‘TREVOR powerful expression in The Lower Depths,
GRIFFITHS for other, more successful, contem- probably his best known and most often
porary British socialist dramatists; ‘CHURCHILL , performed play. Set in a squalid slum in
‘GEMS , ‘WERTENBAKER for women’s treatments Moscow, the play portrays with unflinching
of gender issues in both contemporary and candour the miserable lives of the misfits and
historical contexts, particularly Wertenbaker’s Our failures who live there. Although in his time
Country’s Good, which, like Female Transport, deals the realism of his portrayals of poverty was
with convicts and Australia. unprecedented – and even today the unremit-
ting pessimism and gloom of his vision is
hard to take – it is transcended by Gorky’s
GORKY, Maxim (Alexei obvious compassion for suffering and by his
Maximovitch Peshkov) [1868 – 1936] anger at its causes. The plays are weakened
Russian dramatist sometimes by his tendency to moralise and
preach – a flaw of which he himself despaired.
PLAYS INCLUDE:
But Gorky’s panoramic view of a society
The Philistines (1901), The Lower Depths
tottering before the fall can still make a
(1902), Summer Folk (1904), Children of the
powerful impact. Although Gorky has been
Sun (1905), Barbarians (1906), Enemies
consistently compared, with ‘ CHEKHOV ,
(1906), Vassa Shelesnova (1910)
usually negatively, his political grasp and
One of the great Russian dramatists, Gorky’s rigorous examination of bourgeois values can
importance stems from his success as a be regarded as a complement to the
dramatist both under the Czar and after the Chekhovian canvas, not inferior to it. Where
Revolution. His obvious feeling for the down- Summer Folk, for example, focuses on the idle,
trodden underclass of Czarist Russia and his nouveau riche dacha class, Barbarians, set in a
enormous status after the Revolution – he was small provincial town, pits the old peasant
the first president of the Soviet Writers’ Union and petit-bourgeois Russia of crude greed and
– won him at least the outward approval of corruption against the emotional violence of
Stalin, and he used his position to champion the new in the shape of two visiting railway
literary culture and to protect other writers engineers. Enemies tells us in no uncertain
from the censor and the secret police. terms about class conflict and why the over-
An orphan at the age of eleven, he worked throw of the old order in 1917 was so
through his adolescence and youth at every inevitable; the same goes for Vassa Shelesnova,
kind of ill-paid, temporary work. He learned Gorky’s last play, which, set ten years before
to read while employed on a river steamer, the Revolution, ends on a note of plangent
turned to writing, and found literary success despair.
in 1895 with his story Chalkash. He became
active in politics, befriended Tolstoy, was TRY THESE:
befriended by ‘ CHEKHOV , and left the Gorky is a character in ‘DUSTY HUGHES ’ Futurists;
country after the failure of the 1905 ‘IKOLI produced a memorable adaptation of The
Revolution. He returned to Russia in 1913, Lower Depths; ‘POWNALL ’s Master Class investi-
and became a champion of the Bolshevik gates the whole issue of socialist realism in the
Revolution. He developed the theory of context of music; ‘MAYAKOVSKY as a Russian
‘Socialist Realism’, which was soon distorted contemporary of Gorky; the visionary who briefly
by Stalin’s requirement for exclusively positive transforms lives is a notable figure in ‘IBSEN ’s
images of Soviet life. He died of TB in 1936, a The Wild Duck and ‘O’NEILL ’s The Iceman Cometh;
death later laid at the door of a supposed ‘MOTTON for his compassion for down-and-
Trotskyist plot ‘uncovered’ during the show- outers in the 1980s; ‘TREVOR GRIFFITHS ’ Piano
trials of Stalin’s enemies. recalls Gorky as well as ‘CHEKHOV .
An implacable enemy of the wealthy and
the intellectual in pre-revolutionary society,
his sympathy for the poor and the oppressed
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 124

124 GOTANDA, Philip Kan


GOTANDA, Philip Kan [1949 – ] After ‘SHAW , Granville-Barker is perhaps the
American dramatist most important figure in the renaissance of
English drama in the early 1900s. He was also
PLAYS INCLUDE:
an excellent actor who played ‘IBSEN and
The Avocado Kid or Zen in the Art of
‘SHAW parts for the Stage Society. Some-
Guacamole (1979), A Song for a Nisei
times regarded as the father of Britain’s
Fisherman (1981), The Dream of Kitamura
National Theatre movement, from 1904 to
(1982), The Wash (1985), Fish Head Soup
1907 he directed and managed the Court
(1987), Yankee Dawg You Die (1987), Day
Theatre (now the Royal Court) with John E.
Standing on Its Head (1994) Ballad of Yachiyo
Vedrenne. With an ensemble company he
(1995), The Sisters Matsumoto (1998), Yohen
produced contemporary European drama,
(1999), Floating Weeds (2001), The Wind
translations of ‘EURIPIDES , and new British
Cries Mary (2002)
plays, above all those of ‘SHAW . They lost
Gotanda is one of the foremost Asian- money, but their influence was seminal.
American dramatists in the United States. A As a dramatist, he is most often bracketed
Sansei, or third-generation Japanese with ‘GALSWORTHY (and both are generally
American, Gotanda is particularly concerned cross-referenced to Shaw), but his plays are
about the place of Japanese Americans in livelier and less well made than Galsworthy’s,
American society and his scripts often and he is better at putting argument on stage
encompass two worlds. The Dream of than Shaw. Granville-Barker’s reputation has
Kitamura, for instance, is a stylised tale of been eclipsed by Shaw’s but he is a consider-
murder in the time of the Samurai, while The able dramatist whose status has been
Wash is a realistic drama about two elderly confirmed by major revivals of his plays in
second-generation Japanese Americans on Britain over the last thirty years. Even one of
the verge of divorce. Yankee Dawg You Die is a his final unperformed plays, The Secret Life,
more polemical view of the Japanese dealing with the perhaps autobiographical
American situation. The Wind Cries Mary, a theme of public versus private life, was resur-
response to ‘IBSEN ’s Hedda Gabler, updates rected at the Orange Tree, Richmond, in
the story to 1968 and the dilemma of a 1988. His early play The Marrying of Anne
Japanese-American woman torn between the Leete was found unconventional, elliptical
demands of tradition and her own feelings. and somewhat ambiguous in 1902, and the
Gotanda has seldom been staged in Britain RSC production in 1975 produced much the
but Ballad of Yachiyo was staged at London’s same reactions. The Madras House (Royal
Gate Theatre and Floating Weeds had an after- National Theatre, 1977) was revealed as a
noon reading at the Royal Court. very rich play: its structure seems loose at
first (Granville-Barker is capable of creating
TRY THESE: the six carefully differentiated unmarried
‘ABBENSETTS , ‘FAGON , ‘HWANG , ‘KUREISHI , Huxtable girls in Act 2 and then abandoning
‘WESKER for questions of assimilation and them altogether) but the theme of the role of
marginality. women in society holds it together. The
Voysey Inheritance is a good, well-crafted
play, which generates considerable suspense,
GRANVILLE-BARKER, and the dreadful Voysey family are a fine
Harley [1877 – 1946] collection of well-rounded upper-middle-
British director, dramatist, actor and theorist class characters, all visibly related. Waste,
about the ruin of a politician through a
PLAYS INCLUDE:
casual affair which leads to abortion and
The Marrying of Anne Leete (written 1899,
death, was written in 1907, banned by the
produced 1902), The Voysey Inheritance
censor, rewritten in 1926, and then almost
(1905), Waste (1907), The Madras House
unperformed until its quality was shown by
(1910), The Secret Life (written 1919–22,
the RSC revival in 1985. It is very well
published 1923, produced 1988), His Majesty
constructed, with a modern resonance to the
(written 1928, not produced)
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 125

GRAY, Simon 125

abortion arguments and some fine long and there are touches of Expressionism; and it
suspenseful scenes of political and personal is far from being a simple attack on ‘BRECHT .
argument.
TRY THESE:
TRY THESE: ‘HOCHHÜTH for German 1960s ‘documentary’
‘IBSEN for problem plays and ‘SHAW for argu- drama, but Grass has fewer pretensions and a
ment plays – Granville-Barker often seems a cross sense of humour; ‘TREVOR GRIFFITHS ’ The Party
between the two; ‘GORKY was an equally strong for the relationship between rhetoric and political
examiner of bourgeois values; ‘CHEKHOV too, involvement, similarly ‘BULGAKOV ’s Molière.
though in a different vein; for more well-crafted,
family dramas with moral intent; ‘HELLMAN ,
much of ‘RATTIGAN and, perhaps surprisingly, GRAY, Amlin [1946 – ]
some of ‘COWARD ; Elizabeth Robins’ Votes for American dramatist and adapter
Women for its handling of sexual politics. PLAYS INCLUDE:
Villainous Company (1978, adapted from
Henry IV and other plays of ‘SHAKESPEARE ),
GRASS, Günter [1927 – ]
How I Got That Story (1979), The Fantod
German novelist, poet and dramatist (1979), Kingdom Come (1983, from O. E.
PLAYS INCLUDE: Rolvaag), Zones of the Spirit (1984, includes
Onkel, Onkel (1958, Mister, Mister), Die Outlanders and Wormwood, suggested by
Bösen Köche (1961, The Wicked Cooks), Die material from ‘STRINDBERG ), A Christmas
Plebejer proben den Aufstand (1965, The Carol (1984, adapted from Dickens)
Plebeians Rehearse the Uprising), Davor
Gray first received significant recognition
(1969, Beforehand)
with his surreal, hard-hitting satire about the
Socialist writer Grass was born in Danzig, Vietnam War, How I Got That Story. North
which provides the setting for his early novels. and South Vietnamese and Americans come
He experimented with short absurdist plays, under Gray’s fire, as he demonstrates all
stage design, poetry and sculpture before factions to be both dishonest and unintelli-
making a hit with in 1959 with his novel Die gent. The imaginative script requires that a
Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum). A committed character called ‘The Historical Event’ trans-
polemicist, he has been active in German form into twenty other characters who make
politics as well as in literature. He won the up parts of the Event. Since then, Gray’s work
1999 Nobel Prize for Literature. has tended to be more realistic in style, and he
His most successful play internationally has frequently chosen to write or adapt plays
has been The Plebeians Rehearse the Uprising, that are set in historical periods. Much of his
an interesting metatheatrical piece. It is set in work has been done with the Milwaukee
the Berliner Ensemble on 17 June 1953, when Repertory Theatre.
the East German workers demonstrated
against demands for higher productivity; the TRY THESE:
boss is (unhistorically) rehearsing the ‘SPALDING GRAY , ‘RABE , ‘CHARLES WOOD ,
plebeians’ uprising against Coriolanus, when ‘WRIGHT for images of war; ‘BRENTON ’s Epsom
a group of construction workers breaks in to Downs for imaginative transformations of actors.
ask for a statement of his support. He refuses
to give it, seeing the senselessness of this
unplanned action, but he also refuses to GRAY, Simon [1936 – ]
denounce the uprising when asked by the British dramatist and novelist
authorities; and he continues the rehearsal,
PLAYS INCLUDE:
making the real workers participate, record-
Wise Child (1967), Dutch Uncle (1969),
ing their voices and studying their reactions
Butley (1971), Spoiled (1971), Otherwise
to improve his play. The situation is not
Engaged (1975), The Rear Column (1978),
treated naturalistically – parts are in verse –
Close of Play (1979), Stagestruck (1979),
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 126

126 GRAY, Spalding


Quartermaine’s Terms (1981), The Common Butley
Pursuit (1984; revised version 1988), Melon Butley has a typical Gray protagonist, a bitchy
(1987), Hidden Laughter (1990), Cell Mates university lecturer with a marriage in
(1995), Life Support (1997), Just the Three of collapse, who drives away not only his wife
Us (1997), The Late Middle Classes (1999), but her replacement, the ex-student, now
Japes (2001) colleague, with whom he shares office and
home. The savage tongue that makes him so
Gray is a former university lecturer, a prolific offensive is also what provides much of the
writer (for stage, television and film, as well as audience’s fun. But if they enjoy seeing his
of adaptations, novels and even autobio- selfishness get its comeuppance, there is also a
graphy) whose plays have often involved the release for some of their own frustrations in
affairs of academics and people in publishing. seeing the characters find such vitriolic
His usually articulate characters are witty and language for all those rows that happen in any
often outrageous, so that audiences react to highly stressed relationship. Gray is often too
even his more macabre themes as comedies busy scoring points for the serious content of
and have given him greater popular success his plays to show, but his exposure of our own
than his rough handling by critics would selfishness and failure can be caustic and
suggest. Leading characters are often egocen- accessible to those prepared to think while
tric, sharp-tongued misfits, badly in need of a they laugh.
psychiatrist (Melon is a study of one such
character’s breakdown). Most of his plays TRY THESE:
present at least one homosexual character, ‘BENNETT for wit with more compassion, and
and a homosexual relationship is central to also for spies to compare with Cell Mates;
Butley and Spoiled (in which a schoolteacher ‘STOPPARD for wordplay with more intellect
with a pregnant wife teaches a pupil at home (and spies in Hapgood); ‘HAMPTON ’s
and becomes increasingly involved with him). Philanthropist and ‘MAMET ’s Oleanna for differ-
Many of Gray’s plays deal with sexual ent views of an academic; ‘AYCKBOURN and
fetishism or sadomasochistic games: Wise ‘LEIGH can be as vituperative about middle-class
Child features transvestism, though the cross- mores, ‘LUCIE can be as vicious about contem-
dresser in fact turns out to be a crook in porary media men; ‘CRIMP ’s No-one Sees the
disguise; Dutch Uncle has a masochist seeking Video is an equally jaundiced swipe at women,
the attentions of a policeman by trying to work and contemporary mores to compare with
murder his own wife; in Just the Three of Us a Hidden Laughter; ‘PINTER has directed several of
wronged wife chains up her husband’s Gray’s plays; Gray has spoken of his admiration for
mistress. Such situations are usually exploited ‘AESCHYLUS and ‘SHAKESPEARE ; ‘PETER
for laughs, though in The Rear Column, set in SHAFFER ’s Five Finger Exercise for a comparison
the Victorian Congo, sadism and cannibalism with the 1950s setting of The Late Middle Classes.
are used more seriously to show the degrada-
tion of the whites.
Several of Gray’s plays have become GRAY, Spalding [1941 – ]
award-winning adaptations on television, American dramatist, monologist and actor
including Quartermaine’s Terms, Butley and
PLAYS AND MONOLOGUES INCLUDE:
The Common Pursuit. His screenplays for tele-
Three Places in Rhode Island (1977), Sex and
vision include After Pilkington (1987) and Old
Death to the Age 14 (1979), Booze, Cars, and
Flames (1990), and for the cinema, A Month
College Girls (1979), A Personal History of the
in the Country (1987), which won the Grand
American Theatre (1980), Points of Interest
Prix award at the Brussels Film Fair. He has
(1980), In Search of the Monkey Girl (1981),
written trenchant accounts of the joys (or
India and After (1982), Interviewing the
otherwise) of theatrical life, including Fat
Audience (1982), Swimming to Cambodia
Chance, about the Cell Mates debacle when
(1984), Terrors of Pleasure (1986), Rivkala’s
Stephen Fry unexpectedly left the cast.
Ring (adaptation of ‘CHEKHOV ’s The Witch,
1986), Monster in a Box (1990), Gray’s
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 127

GREEN, Paul 127

Anatomy (1993), It’s a Slippery Slope (1997), GREEN, Paul [1894 – 1981]
Morning, Noon and Night (1999) American dramatist, screenwriter and novelist
PLAYS INCLUDE:
An integral part of the off-off-Broadway
The Last of the Lowries (1920), White Dresses
theatre since the 1960s, Gray launched his
(1923), The No ’Count Boy (1924), In
career with the Performance Group’s
Abraham’s Bosom (1926), The Field God
production of ‘ SAM SHEPARD ’s Tooth of
(1927), The House of Connelly (1928), Tread
Crime. He later co-founded the Wooster
the Green Grass (1932), Roll, Sweet Chariot
Group with Elizabeth LeCompte, where he
(1934), Shroud My Body Down (1934),
launched his successful solo career as a
Johnny Johnson (1936), Native Son (1941,
monologist. A self-described ‘poetic journal-
from Richard Wright)
ist’, Gray transmutes his daily life into
theatrical pieces in which any event – from his SYMPHONIC DRAMAS INCLUDE:
nervous breakdown in India to his purchase The Lost Colony (1937), The Nighland Call
of a country house in upstate New York – is (1939), The Common Glory (1947),
material for comic, often acidic investigation. Wilderness Road (1955), The Confederacy
Gray has elevated narcissistic storytelling to (1958), The Stephen Foster Story (1959),
high art with his amazingly compelling low- Cross and Sword (1965), Texas (1966),
key delivery. Some see Gray as a self-obsessed Trumpet in the Land (1970), The Lone Star
exhibitionist, while others claim he is a (1977)
profound commentator on our age. In either
case, his work reflects the obsession with self- Green was the son of a North Carolina
analysis that pervades American life. Worth farmer; a poet, novelist and screenwriter as
catching on one of his infrequent visits to well as dramatist, he filled his plays with all
Britain or on film. the South’s dramatic riches, including
tragedy, comedy, burlesque, poetry, music,
Swimming to Cambodia songs, processionals and mass chants. In his
Gray’s monologue (filmed by Jonathan work as in his region, bitter realities often
Demme in 1987) was inspired by his experi- confront the most soaring imagination. His
ence playing the aide to the American ambas- first plays were one-act dramas concerning
sador in The Killing Fields. With no props strained race relations, conflicting religious
except a microphone, a glass of water and values and the disintegration of old, wealthy
several maps of Cambodia behind him, Gray families. Despite uneven reviews, Green was
charts a terrifyingly funny journey to the awarded the Pulitzer Prize for In Abraham’s
human heart of darkness in which the making Bosom, a tragedy of an educated mulatto
of a film about genocide acts as a catalyst for killed by a white mob when he attempts to
ruminations on sex, death, human compas- open a school for black children.
sion and destruction. One remarkable section In 1931 The House of Connelly, a drama of
recounts that LA extras had to be flown to the decay of an old southern family, was the
Asia to play Cambodia refugees, since Pol Pot Group Theatre’s first major production. It
had killed off all the real ones. In a voice was very successful, though Green later
capable of sustaining hypnotic waves of complained that the Group convinced him to
discourse, Gray’s monologue combines keen- change the original tragic ending to a happy
eyed analysis with irony. one for reasons of left-wing political correct-
ness. The Group also produced the satire
TRY THESE: Johnny Johnson, with music by Kurt Weill: the
Laurie Anderson, ‘BOGOSIAN , Karen Finley for plot revolves round an anti-war folk hero who
use of Self as central performance subject; ends up in an insane asylum.
‘AMLIN GRAY , ‘RABE , ‘CHARLES WOOD , In the late 1930s, after a decade of favour-
‘WRIGHT for images of war; ‘ATHOL FUGARD is able critical notices but mixed box-office
a character in Swimming to Cambodia. success, Green turned away from Broadway
and put his energies into what he called
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 128

128 GREENBERG, Richard


‘symphonic dramas’. These monumental summer, is self-congratulatory, and they
outdoor historical spectacles – modern secu- cannot understand why the woman turns on
lar equivalents of medieval religious pageants them when they abandon her at the summer’s
– depicted various episodes of exploration, end. In Three Days of Rain Greenberg employs
settlement, government and culture in a time shift to unravel the past so that the
specific southern localities. The best-known characters in the first act become their parent
symphonic drama was the first, The Lost in Act 2, whereas in Everett Beekin the time
Colony, which has been performed at slip is from 1947 to the 1990s. Take Me Out,
Roanoke, Virginia, every summer (except given its world premiere at London’s Donmar
during World War II) since 1937. Warehouse, is about a baseball star who outs
himself unexpectedly.
TRY THESE:
‘LANGSTON HUGHES ’ Mulatto, a black perspec- TRY THESE:
tive on interracial families; ‘BRECHT for epic ‘COWARD , ‘LUCIE and ‘ORTON for witty
theatre and political drama; ‘O’CASEY ’s The Silver amorality; ‘CRIMP for a newer British voice peel-
Tassie as an anti-war play; ‘Jellicoe for British ing away the layers of casual selfishness;
equivalents of ‘symphonic dramas’; ‘FUGARD ’s ‘DURANG for another American dramatist
My Children! My Africa! for a tragic meditation on presenting a full-frontal assault on the middle
education and race; ‘HELLMAN for families in classes; ‘CHEKHOV ’s The Seagull for an older
decay; ‘HARRISON for a modern version of the example of casual selfishness; ‘AYCKBOURN ,
medieval Mysteries. ‘FIRTH for trenchant social observation;
Greenberg’s version of ‘STRINDBERG ’s Dance of
Death enjoyed a Broadway run with Ian McKellen
GREENBERG, Richard [1958 – ] and Helen Mirren (who was replaced by Frances
American dramatist de la Tour for the London run).
PLAYS INCLUDE:
The Bloodletters (1984), Life Under Water
GREGORY, (Lady Isabella)
(1985), Vanishing Act (1986), The Author’s
Augusta [1852 – 1932]
Voice (1987), The Maderati (1987), Eastern
Standard (1988), The American Plan (1990),
Irish theatre manager and dramatist
Night and Her Stars (1994), Three Days of PLAYS INCLUDE:
Rain (1997), Hurrah at Last (1998), Everett Twenty-Five (1903), Spreading the News
Beekin (2000), Take Me Out (2002), The (1904), The White Cockade (1905), The
Violet Hour (2002), The Dazzle (2002) Rising of the Moon (1907), The Workhouse
Ward (1908)
Greenberg made his reputation by capturing
the manners of the selfish, urban, American Lady Gregory was an energetic Protestant
middle class. His canvas is small, yet he paints landowner from Galway, who took to the
the world of his characters with a fine eye for theatre in middle age. After three years of
the isolation that lies beneath the clever experiment in Dublin with the Irish Literary
surfaces, whether he is dramatising a young Theatre (1899–1901), in the company of
man’s adolescent troubles, as in the one-act ‘W. B. YEATS , Edward Martyn and George
Life Under Water, or taking aim at upwardly Moore, and then with the Fay brothers’
mobile New Yorkers, as in Eastern Standard, a company, she helped to found the Abbey
witty and uncompromising portrayal of the Theatre in 1904, and was involved in its
carelessness and self-absorption of the management almost until her death in 1932.
yuppies of the 1980s. The characters are well She did not start writing plays until she was
educated, sexually sophisticated and generally fifty, but thereafter wrote around forty, mostly
successful in their careers, yet they have little one-act farces, but also more pretentious (and
ability to sustain intimate relationships. Their thus less revivable) plays about Irish history,
one act of social consciousness, which and such ventures as translations of
involves ‘adopting’ a homeless woman for the ‘MOLIÈRE into the Galway dialect. She is
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 129

GREIG, Noël 129

probably more important for her manage- ing on the immediate pre-war period, the
ment role than for her workmanlike plays; 1970s and the 1990s. Greig’s Not About
however, her farcical comedies, such as Pomegranates, developed with Rufus Norris
Spreading the News, make a lively attempt to and actors from Al-Kasaba Theatre in
render Irish peasant speech patterns, and the Ramallah, was given a rehearsed reading at
plots crack along. the Royal Court in 2002. Outlying Islands, set
on a remote Scottish island in 1939, is about a
TRY THESE: survey of bird life that turns out to be about
‘CARR , ‘SYNGE and ‘YEATS for serious something altogether more sinister.
attempts to use Irish speech patterns in the
theatre; ‘FRIEL ’s Translations bemoans the TRY THESE:
destruction of native Gaelic by imposed English. Greig is often compared to ‘PINTER ; ‘MARIVAUX
is a character in The Speculator; ‘CHURCHILL ’s
Serious Money for the excitement of speculation;
GREIG, David [1969 – ] ‘HARE for another British view of the Palestinian
Scottish dramatist situation: ‘STOPPARD ’s Jumpers for British astro-
nauts; ‘BUTTERWORTH ’s The Night Heron for rare
PLAYS INCLUDE:
birds and violent outcomes; Greig adapted Albert
A Savage Reminiscence (1991), And the Opera
Camus’ Caligula for the 2003 Donmar Warehouse
House Remained Unbuilt (1991), Petra’s
production.
Explanation (1992), Stalinland (1992),
Consider the Dish (1993), Europe (1994), One
Way Street (1995), The Architect (1996),
GREIG, Noël [1944 – ]
Airport (1996), Caledonia Dreaming (1997),
Timeless (1997) The Speculator (1999),
British dramatist
Mainstream (1999), The Cosmonaut’s Last PLAYS INCLUDE:
Message to the Woman He Once Loved in the Men (1976), As Time Goes By (1977 with
Former Soviet Union (1999), Victoria (2000), ‘DREW GRIFFITHS ), The Dear Love of
Casanova (2001), Lament (2002), Not About Comrades (1979), Angels Descend on Paris,
Pomegranates (2002), Outlying Islands (2002) (1980), Poppies (1983), Rainbow’s Ending
(1984), Spinning a Yarn (1984), Do We Ever
Greig was born in Edinburgh and studied
See Grace? (1985), Best of Friends (1985),
drama and English at Bristol University. He
Working Hearts (1986), Laughter from the
has been a playwright in residence at the RSC
Other Side (1986), Whispers in the Dark
and has written several of his plays for
(1987), Plague of Innocence (1988), Familiar
Suspect Culture, the theatre company he
Feelings (1989), The Death of Christopher
founded with Graham Eatough in 1990. In
Marlowe (1989), Paradise Now and Then
The Speculator Greig invents an eighteenth-
(1990), The Good Sisters (1991, from
century Paris in which financial speculation
‘MICHEL TREMBLAY ); Final Cargo (1994), Alice
(partly personified through the historical
(1998, after Lewis Carroll)
figure of John Law) and erotic speculation
march hand in hand. Greig won a John A prolific dramatist whose work has covered
Whiting Award for The Cosmonaut’s Last an amazingly wide range, Greig’s associations
Message, with its heady international mixture as writer/director with various groups reflect
of characters from two cosmonauts forgotten many of the major theatrical trends of the
in space, a UFO researcher, a civil servant and past two decades. He was co-founder of The
a speech therapist to a peace negotiator. Vicky Combination, one of the first fringe groups to
Featherstone of Paine’s Plough described its emphasise group work, improvisation and
as ‘a story about communicating the incom- flexible working spaces; director at the Almost
municable’. Victoria, focused through three Free, scene of the first season of gay plays put
women all called Victoria and all played by on by Ed Berman; writer/director with the
the same actress, tries to encapsulate Scottish Bradford community-based company The
history in the twentieth century, concentrat- General Will; director with Gay Sweatshop
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 130

130 GRIFFITHS, Drew


from 1977–87; and writer-in-residence with GRIFFITHS, Drew [1947 – 84]
Theatre Centre, the theatre-in-education British dramatist
group. Greig has written for Graeae, the
PLAYS INCLUDE:
company of performers with disabilities, and
Mister X (1975, with Roger Baker), Indiscreet
much of his recent work has been com-
(1976, with Roger Baker), The Jingle Ball
munity-based and aimed specifically at young
(1976), As Time Goes By (1977, with ‘NOËL
people.
GREIG )
A writer who consistently explores the
points at which sexuality and social and polit- Director, dramatist and founder member
ical forces touch, his early work shows an with Gerald Chapman of Gay Sweatshop in
interest in historical roots, making connec- 1975, Griffiths is a seminal figure in the
tions with the present, and linking the history of gay political theatre in Britain.
personal with the public. Men, for example, Mister X, the first British gay play to challenge
deals with socialism’s inability to extend its internalised self-oppression and assert gay
ideology into personal, gay politics. As Time pride, was hugely influential. Equally signifi-
Goes By, tracing gay repression through three cant was As Time Goes By, an exploration of
different times, and The Dear Love of gay repression, that drew on three periods in
Comrades, about the personal and the politi- history: Victorian England (‘OSCAR WILDE ’s
cal life of the nineteenth-century socialist trial and after), Nazi Germany in the 1930s
Edward Carpenter, have been highly influen- and America 1969 with the beginning of the
tial. Another important, highly complex Gay Liberation movement in the Stonewall
exploration of repression and its responses Riots of that year. Again a pivotal piece
was Angels Descend on Paris. Presented in the because of the way it draws together personal
form of an operetta, this six-character epic, and political strands, it subsequently spawned
threading its way from Nazi Berlin to Paris, a number of plays, including ‘ MARTIN
drew on Jacobean tragedy and the story of SHERMAN ’s Bent. The Jingle Ball was a spoof
Bluebeard to explore the responses of people pantomime on Cinderella, with the usual
under pressure, sexual identity, role-playing male Ugly Sisters, but a female Principal Boy
and opportunism. Poppies, perhaps his best- whose love for Cinders was unequivocally
known play, is an anti-militaristic and anti- lesbian.
nuclear play. Set on Hampstead’s Parliament Griffiths went on to write further plays for
Hill, where two middle-aged men, Sammy television and radio about gay relationships:
and Snow, are having a picnic, it utilises a The Only One South of the River is a comedy
favourite Greig technique, mixing past with set in a gay disco over a straight pub. What
present and poetry with polemics. A symbolic they all had in common was a basic love and
piece, it was inspired by images of mothers concern to show gay people with dignity and
sticking photos of their own children on the not a little humour.
wire fencing at Greenham Common air force
base. Mister X
Based on a pamphlet, With Downcast Gays by
TRY THESE: David Hutter and Andrew Hodges, Mister X is
Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band for an earlier a cathartic ‘coming out’ play that made an
example of writing about gays; Jill Posener’s Any enormous impact on audiences, gay and
Woman Can for lesbian coming out; ‘DREW straight, wherever it went. Written in revue
GRIFFITHS for As Time Goes By, which deals with form – as though a personalised biography of
the Nazi persecution of homosexuals, treated the cast, with six sections telling different
memorably in ‘SHERMAN ’s Bent; ‘SHAPIRO ’s experiences and a gradually changing
Winter in the Morning shows the responses of a consciousness about being gay – the produc-
group of young Jews to Nazism and the Warsaw tion used minimal props (chairs, a table and a
Ghetto; ‘BARTLETT , ‘ELYOT , ‘RAVENHILL for a tape recorder) in order to tour anywhere.
newer generation of gay writing. Times may have changed and so too some of
the targets of homophobia, but its radical use
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 131

GRIFFITHS, Trevor 131

of laughter in breaking down stereotypes and the class position of the family. Griffiths’ first
overriding humanitarianism make it a full-length play, Occupations (a study of
seminal work. Gramsci), was taken up by the RSC, while his
one-act plays Apricots and Thermidor were
TRY THESE: produced by the socialist company 7:84. The
‘NOEL GREIG ; ‘OSMENT , Gay Sweatshop’s other Party takes the form of a political debate
‘coming out’ play, Jill Posener’s Any Woman Can; among representatives from left-wing groups
‘KAY ’s Twice Over as another gay play dealing at the moment of May 1968.
with honesty in all relationships; for laughter with The productions of Occupations and The
a sting in the tail, see ‘AYCKBOURN , particularly Party on the stages of such Establishment
Absent Friends, ‘TREVOR GRIFFITHS ’ Comedians, bastions as the National Theatre and the RSC
‘LEIGH ’s Abigail’s Party, ‘ORTON , ‘OSBORNE ’s were very much part of Griffiths’ desire to
The Entertainer; ‘BARTLETT ’s Sarrasine and A make socialist ideas accessible, and to make
Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep for a later genera- cultural forms part of a broader political
tion of gay theatre. struggle.
Griffiths has often chosen to work in tele-
vision rather than the theatre in order to
GRIFFITHS, Trevor [1935 – ] achieve the widest possible audience; he has
British dramatist adapted many of his plays for television, has
contributed episodes to popular series, and
PLAYS INCLUDE:
adapted novels for television. His television
The Wages of Thin (1969), Occupations
series Bill Brand took the form of a socialist
(1970), Apricots (1971), Thermidor (1971),
soap opera, in its account of a Labour MP
Lay By (1971, with ‘HOWARD BRENTON ,
whose career encompassed a range of socialist
‘BRIAN CLARK , ‘DAVID HARE , ‘STEPHEN
debates. His film work includes major contri-
POLIAKOFF , Hugh Stoddart, ‘SNOO WILSON ),
butions to the script of Warren Beatty’s Reds,
Sam, Sam (1972), The Party (1973),
and Fatherland (1986). Griffiths has said: ‘I
Comedians (1975), Deeds (1978; with
chose to work in those modes because I have
‘HOWARD BRENTON , ‘KEN CAMPBELL , ‘DAVID
to work with the popular imagination . . . I am
HARE ), Oi for England (1982), Real Dreams
not interested in talking to thirty-eight
(1986), Piano (1990), The Gulf Between Us
university graduates in a cellar in Soho’.
(1992), Thatcher’s Children (1993), Who
Shall Be Happy (1995)
Comedians
Griffiths is among the most important of A study of the nature of comedy, it works
contemporary socialist writers, and a central both as a scabrous attack on the racist and
figure in the debate about the role of the sexist humour which passes for comedy in
dramatist in a capitalist culture. An unequiv- British popular culture, and as an exploration
ocal revolutionary Marxist, his work of the radical potential of comedy. The play
constantly questions which forms and which begins in the classroom where an old come-
media are most appropriate to a socialist dian (originally, and appropriately, played by
theatre practice. Because of this, as theatrical Jimmy Jewel) is training a group of stand-up
and television fashions have changed under comics. The group is made up of a docker, a
the pressure of ‘market forces’ his work has milkman, an insurance agent, a labourer, a
become increasingly marginalised to regional night club owner and a van driver. For them
instead of national platforms. all, success as a comedian is an escape route
Born in Manchester, Trevor Griffiths was of from the tediousness of their work; in the
the first generation to reap the consequences second act they perform for an agent who
of the 1944 Education Act and was the first of may supply the means. While desperate
his family to go to university. His first play, ambition fires most of the group to come out
Sam, Sam, is a semi-autobiographical tale with a spate of cracks against blacks,
about two brothers, one of whom moves Pakistanis, Jews and women, the youngest
socially upward while the other is trapped by member dumps his prepared act and, in a
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 132

132 GROSSO, Nick


stunning alienation effect, turns directly to TRY THESE:
the audience with a coruscating speech of Grosso has been compared to ‘BECKETT ,
class hatred. The final act of the play returns ‘BERKOFF and ‘PINTER as well as
to the classroom, where pupil and teacher ‘PIRANDELLO ; ‘BOND ’s Saved for another
debate the private and public possibilities of comparison.
comedy. The play’s theatrical practice of chal-
lenging the basis of what it is possible to laugh
at can be very unsettling for an audience. GUARE, John [1938 – ]
American dramatist
TRY THESE:
PLAYS INCLUDE:
‘BARKER , ‘BRENTON , ‘HARE are among the
The Loveliest Afternoon of the Year (1966),
‘political’ dramatists of Griffiths’ generation;
Something I’ll Tell You Tuesday (1966),
‘IKOLI ’s Scrape Off the Black, ‘MARCHANT ’s Lazy
Muzeeka (1967), Cop-Out (1968), Kissing
Days Ltd, ‘PHILLIPS ’ Strange Fruit all contrast Sweet (1969), A Day of Surprises (1970), The
brothers’ opposing attitudes to life; ‘DREW
House of Blue Leaves (1971), Two Gentlemen
GRIFFITHS and Roger Baker’s Mister X uses comedy
of Verona (1971, from ‘SHAKESPEARE ,
to subvert homophobic attitudes and was
musical adaptation and lyrics), Rich and
directly influenced by Comedians; ‘EDGAR , like
Famous (1974), Marco Polo Sings a Solo
Griffiths, engaged in the debate about the best
(1976), Landscape of the Body (1977), Bosoms
form for socialist drama throughout his writing
and Neglect (1979), Lydie Breeze (1982),
career; D’Arcy and ‘ARDEN have also engaged in
Gardenia (1982), Women and Water (1984),
the debate but have turned instead to commu-
The Talking Dog (1985), Six Degrees of
nity-based theatre; ‘JOHN MCGRATH and 7:84 for
Separation (1990), Four Baboons Adoring the
a different strand of the argument; Piano draws
Sun (1992), Moon Under Miami (1995,
on ‘CHEKHOVIAN themes and Platonov in
previously Moon Over Miami), The General
particular; ‘ELDRIDGE ’s A Week with Tony, inspired
of Hot Desire (1998), Sweet Smell of Success
by Griffiths’ Country, for contemporary
(2002, book of the musical)
Conservative politics.
Guare’s work brims with inventiveness:
bizarre situations, eccentric characters and
GROSSO, Nick [1968 – ] unimaginable plots haunt his plays. Although
British dramatist his conceits seem implausible, his writing
touches the heart with an inner truth that
PLAYS INCLUDE:
surpasses surface realism. It is the truth of
Peaches (1994), Sweetheart (1996), Real
human aspiration and disillusionment.
Classy Affair (1998), Kosher Harry (2002)
After completing an MFA in Playwriting at
Grosso has been described by the In Yer Face Yale School of Drama in 1963, Guare achieved
Theatre website as a ‘laddish playwright’ who immediate success off-off-Broadway with his
‘writes superb dialogue and is master of the early one-act plays. The House of Blue Leaves
subtext’. In his early plays the emphasis is on earned Guare his second OBIE and a New
closely observed subtle power struggles York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for best
between youngish people in the typical pubs American play of the season. A scathing farce
and clubs environments of an urban set in the Queens apartment of an Irish
nowhere. As he says himself, ‘if you want a Catholic family on the day of the Pope’s visit
plot, don’t come to my plays’. The Observer to New York, the play is rooted in Guare’s own
thought that Kosher Harry, a study of Queens childhood. The central character, a
different varieties of racism, marked his meta- zookeeper with aspirations of ‘making it’ as a
morphosis from laddishness into the songwriter, longs to commit his mentally ill
‘PIRANDELLO of North London. wife Bananas so he can pursue fame and
fortune in Hollywood with his ambitious girl-
friend. Plot complications abound, including
a scheme hatched by his son to blow up the
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 133

GUPTA, Tanika 133

Pope. Each character pursues his own empty ‘ODETS wrote the screenplay for the film Sweet
dreams until they explode in their faces Smell of Success; Guare adapted His Girl Friday from
literally and figuratively. While uproariously Howard Hawks’ film and ‘HECHT and
funny, the play ends in the despair and MacArthur’s The Front Page.
anguish of broken dreams.
Guare’s next few plays, although intriguing
and imaginative, received little critical GUPTA, Tanika [1964 – ]
acclaim. Reviewers seemed uncomfortable British dramatist
with his neurotically obsessive characters,
PLAYS INCLUDE:
disorganised plots and quick shifts from farce
Voices in the Wind (1995), Skeleton (1997), A
to tragedy. His poetic language failed to
River Sutra (1997, from Gita Mehta), On the
assuage the unease his writing provoked.
Couch with Enoch (1998), The Waiting Room
However, his haunting and touching screen-
(2000), Sanctuary (2002), Inside Out (2002),
play for Atlantic City (1981) was universally
Fragile Land (2003), Hobson’s Choice (2003,
acclaimed, and nominated for an Academy
after ‘BRIGHOUSE )
Award for best original screenplay. Guare then
turned his hand to a series of historical plays London-born Gupta has written extensively
exploring the collapse of the American for television and radio, emerging as a writer
dream. Set in the nineteenth century, and for the theatre with Voices in the Wind. She has
written in a more serene and subdued style been a writer in residence at the National
that highlighted his poetic prowess, the plays Theatre, which staged the John Whiting
failed to please the critics. Award winner The Waiting Room. In it a dead
Six Degrees of Separation has been his woman has to make her journey to the
major success to date. Here his old themes of Waiting Room for the dead, guided by a spirit
unfulfilled dreams, emotional alienation and in the guise of Bollywood star Dilip Kumar,
escape from introspection converge in a but not before she sorts out some family
whirligig plot. ‘Successful’ Manhattanites are issues. In Sanctuary she brings together an
duped by a con man posing as the son of assorted group of characters including a
Sidney Poitier. He works his way into their Kashmiri refugee, an Afro-Caribbean journal-
homes, claiming to be a friend of their chil- ist, a Rwandan massacre survivor and a
dren (all away at Ivy League colleges). These female vicar in a churchyard that acts as a
sophisticated urbanites are one step removed refuge from the troubles of the world. The
from Guare’s working-class characters in play explores the ramifications of colonialism
Queens who dreamed of getting to and its legacies in ways that give the lie to any
Manhattan. Even on Park Avenue, empty lives suggestion that Gupta is a parochial ‘Asian
illuminate empty dreams. ‘Imagination’, writer’. After working with Clean Break on
Guare tells us, ‘is God’s gift to make the act of Inside Out in 2002, Gupta is scheduled to
self-examination bearable.’ Without self- present her updating of Hobson’s Choice to a
knowledge one can’t know anyone else, and modern-day Salford Asian setting at the
the result is the isolation of contemporary Young Vic in 2003.
life.
TRY THESE:
TRY THESE: The National Theatre presented Gupta’s version of
‘IONESCO for Absurdism; ‘FEYDEAU and ‘BRECHT ’s The Good Person of Szechwan in 2001;
‘ORTON for farce; ‘CHEKHOV for the theme of ‘BRIGHOUSE for the original Hobson’s Choice;
unfulfilled dreams; ‘STRINDBERG for characters ‘BUTTERWORTH ’s Night Heron and ‘STOPPARD’ s
with internal angst; ‘KAUFMAN and Hart for the Arcadia for garden imagery; ‘KHAN-DIN and
American dream as farce; ‘SHAWN for a bitter ‘KUREISHI for British Asian experience; ‘HARE ’s
edge; ‘DURANG for farcical treatment of troubled Map of the World for colonial legacies; Peter Brook
families; ‘GENET for plays revolving around the and Jean-Claude Carrière’s version of The
nature of authentic identity; The General of Hot Mahabharata for a European version of an Indian
Desire is a response to ‘SHAKESPEARE ’s sonnets; classic; Jatinder Verma for a different approach to
G Theatre Guide (1).qxp 2/4/07 16:14 Page 134

134 GURNEY, A. R.
Asian and European classics; Ray Grewal’s My Gurney often draws his characters from
Dad’s Corner Shop for a heady mix of alien academia, and his subjects from the classics.
abduction and British Asian experience. Another Antigone depicts a young woman’s
Antigone-like stand against a male professor
when she tries to update ‘SOPHOCLES ’ play;
GURNEY, A. R. (Albert The Old One-Two is a Plautine farce on
Ramsdell), Jr [1930 – ] university life; and The Golden Fleece and
American dramatist and novelist Children are dominated, as were many classi-
cal plays, by god-like offstage characters.
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Gurney has also written several chronicles
Three People (1956), Turn of the Century
covering the period from the 1930s to the
(1958), The Golden Fleece (1968), The Open
present. Scenes from American Life and The
Meeting (1969), The Love Course (1970),
Dining Room are montages influenced by
Scenes from American Life (1970), The Old
‘THORNTON WILDER , and Love Letters is the
One-Two (1973), Children (1974, from John
story of a long romance carried on by mail.
Cheever), Who Killed Richard Cory? (1976),
The Golden Age (1981, from Henry James),
TRY THESE:
What I Did Last Summer (1981), The Dining
For classical influences, Plautus’ The Captives,
Room (1982), Another Antigone (1986), The
‘SENECA ’s Medea, ‘SOPHOCLES ’ Antigone;
Perfect Party (1986), Sweet Sue (1987), The
‘ALBEE ’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,
Cocktail Hour (1988), Love Letters (1988),
‘MAMET ’s Oleanna, ‘NELSON ’s Some Americans
The Snow Ball (1991), The Old Boy (1991),
The Fourth Wall (1992), Later Life (1993), A
Abroad for American academics; ‘SIMON GRAY
for an English parallel; ‘WATERHOUSE and
Cheever Evening (1994), Overture (1995),
‘WHITEMORE for epistolary drama.
Sylvia (1996), Labor Day (1998), The Far East
(1998), Darlene and the Guest Lecturer
(1998), Ancestral Voices (1999), Human
Events (2001), A Wayside Motor Inn (2003)
A. R. (‘Pete’) Gurney’s main subject is the
decline of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant
(WASP) mores in contemporary America. To
him, WASP culture – by turns sincere and
pretentious, principled and inflexible – is
built upon rituals that have lost much of their
meaning. His plays show a society in flux,
torn between old and new, age and youth,
wisdom and naivety, tradition and rebellion.
Gurney, born to an established Buffalo,
New York, family, and educated at the Yale
School of Drama, started writing plays in the
late 1950s, and quickly decided to concentrate
on his own WASP community. In the 1960s
and 1970s, when WASP culture was out of
fashion, his work was rarely produced except
in New England. Then, in the 1980s, the
return to more traditional values suddenly
gave Gurney an audience, and The Dining
Room, The Cocktail Hour and Love Letters all
had good runs on and off Broadway.
Although he lists as his influences
‘ ARTHUR MILLER , ‘ TENNESSEE WILLIAMS ,
Rogers and Hammerstein, and Cole Porter,
H Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:16 Page 135

 
H 
HALL, Lee [1966 – ] HALLIWELL, David [1936 – ]
British dramatist British dramatist
PLAYS INCLUDE: PLAYS INCLUDE:
Spoonface Steinberg (radio 1997, stage 1999), Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the
Cooking with Elvis (2000) Eunuchs (1965), A Who’s Who of Flapland
(staged 1969), K. D. Dufford Hears K. D.
Hall is a multitalented writer who has been
Dufford Ask K. D. Dufford How K. D.
equally successful in film (Billy Elliott, 1999)
Dufford’ll Make K. D. Dufford (1969)
and radio (Spoonface Steinberg), as a stage
dramatist (Cooking with Elvis) and as an Although he has written extensively for stage,
adapter (‘BRECHT , Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio, radio and television, David Halliwell appears
‘GOLDONI , and Ernst Toller’s Hinkemann, as doomed to be remembered for one play, Little
Bollocks). His reworking of The Good Hope by Malcolm, which was originally directed by
Herman Heijermands, given the ‘ BILL ‘MIKE LEIGH and revived in 1998 at Hampstead
BRYDEN /John Tams treatment, received mixed with Ewan McGregor in the title role. An
notices and not everyone was convinced by expelled art college student tries to change the
the way Billy Elliott treated its socio-political world but his revolutionary cell falls apart as
context, but Spoonface, a monologue by an they decide one of their members is a traitor.
autistic child who is terminally ill with cancer, The play is an interesting comic study of frus-
managed to defy expectation by being both tration that taps into the sixties mood of rebel-
comic and life-affirming as well as moving. In lion, while also showing how high moral ideals
Cooking with Elvis (adapted from a radio can be the cover for less worthy motivations.
play), a former Elvis impersonator, now
confined to a wheelchair after a stroke, exists TRY THESE:
in uneasy limbo, unable to speak or move, Halliwell’s contemporaries ‘JELLICOE , ‘ORTON ,
while around him his wife and daughter ‘PINTER for parallels and contrasts; ‘TREVOR
negotiate an uneasy existence. The arrival of GRIFFITHS ’ The Party for the difficulties of political
the wife’s new young lover is the catalyst for organisation; ‘BECKETT , ‘IONESCO , ‘SIMPSON
explosive developments, and all this is laced for the absurdist qualities of Little Malcolm.
with occasional eruptions of Elvis imperson-
ations from the otherwise immobile father.
HAMPTON, Christopher [1946 – ]
TRY THESE: British dramatist
‘NICHOLS ’ Day in the Death of Joe Egg and The
PLAYS INCLUDE:
National Health for ‘bad taste’ plays about illness When Did You Last See My Mother? (1964),
and disability; ‘ORTON and ‘PINTER for disrup-
Total Eclipse (1968), The Philanthropist
tive strangers; ‘VAN ITALLIE for a post-stroke
(1970), Savages (1973), Treats (1976), After
play; ‘BECKETT ’s Endgame for creative use of a
Mercer (1980), Tales from Hollywood (1982),
wheelchair.
The Portage to San Cristobal of A. H. (1982,
from George Steiner), Les Liaisons
Dangereuses (1985, from Choderlos de
HALL, Willis
Laclos), White Chameleon (1991), Sunset
See WATERHOUSE, Keith
Boulevard (1993, book of the musical), The
Talking Cure (2002)
H Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:16 Page 136

136 HANDKE, Peter


Oxford University Dramatic Society put on The Philanthropist
Hampton’s first play (written when he was The Philanthropist was the play that made
eighteen) When Did You Last See My Mother? Hampton a truly ‘commercial’ playwright.
Taken up by the Royal Court while Hampton Subtitled ‘a bourgeois comedy’ the play
was still an undergraduate, it transferred to focuses on the ironically named philanthro-
the West End, despite its then controversial pist, an academic, whose most apt line is: ‘I’m
homosexual themes, making Hampton the a man of conviction – I think.’ The title is a
youngest dramatist in living memory to have sideways nod at ‘MOLIÈRE ’s Le Misanthrope,
a West End production. of which it is something of an inversion. The
On leaving Oxford, Hampton became the play initially appears as an apparently conven-
first resident dramatist at the Court, which tional comedy, with wit and wisecracks flying
produced Total Eclipse, a play about Verlaine in a bourgeois intellectual setting. But, in the
that Hampton had written as a student, and first scene, an undergraduate (playwright)
then The Philanthropist, written while shoots himself, and introduces a dark edge to
Hampton was resident dramatist. This the comedy. The literary jokes and wit trans-
became, as Hampton puts it, ‘disgracefully mute into a bleak desperation. Over the
successful, so much so that I’ve always felt I course of the play, Philip, the philanthropist,
left under something of a cloud’. demonstrates his ineffectuality, and thereby
In the early 1970s Hampton translated and the sterility of the conventions by which he
adapted a number of ‘IBSEN’s most import- (and, by implication, the conventional form
ant plays. He was much affected by The Doll’s of this kind of play) work. In attempting not
House, and became preoccupied with ques- to do any harm, he actually wreaks havoc.
tions of feminism and gender which he
explored in Treats, and which have continued TRY THESE:
to inform his writing. His adaptation of Les The treatment of sexual politics in Les Liaisons
Liaisons Dangereuses is not only a skilled Dangereuses and Treats makes an interesting
dramatisation of a great French novel, but comparison to ‘STRINDBERG and ‘WHITEHEAD ;
also a very contemporary study of sexual the eighteenth-century setting of Liaisons is
power struggles and exploitation, written reminiscent of the world of ‘CONGREVE and
with a controlled and witty elegance which ‘SHERIDAN ; ‘TERRY JOHNSON (Hysteria), ‘PETER
made it a great success in London and, as SHAFFER (Equus) and ‘WRIGHT (Mrs Klein) for
Dangerous Liaisons, as a film. Although much psychiatrists; ‘HARE ’s Plenty for Suez; ‘DYER for a
of his work is focused on witty, literate indi- treatment of homosexuality from the same
viduals in crisis, in Savages Hampton tackled period as When Did You Last See My Mother?
the issue of the slaughter of Brazilian Indians
to facilitate the exploitation of their territory
at a time when such issues were not yet HANDKE, Peter [1942 – ]
fashionable and in White Chameleon, an auto- Austrian dramatist and novelist
biographical piece, he tackled the Suez crisis
PLAYS INCLUDE:
(he was living in Egypt at the time).
Offending the Audience (1966), Prophecy and
He has translated/adapted works by many
Self-Accusation (1966), Cries for Help (1967),
writers including Isaac Babel, Lewis Carroll,
Kaspar (1969), My Foot My Tutor (1969),
‘CHEKHOV, Joseph Conrad, ‘FEYDEAU, Ariane
Quodlibet (1970), The Ride Across Lake
Mnouchkine, ‘MOLIÈRE, ‘YASMINA REZA and
Constance (1971), They Are Dying Out
‘ÖDÖN VON HORVÁTH, who also features in
(1974), A Sorrow Beyond Dreams (1977), The
Tales from Hollywood, a tale of émigré life in
Long Way Round (1989), The Hour We Knew
which Hampton resurrected him (he died in
Nothing of Each Other (1994), Zurüstungen
Paris in 1938) to spar with ‘BRECHT and with
für die Unsterblichkeit (1997, Constructions
Heinrich and Thomas Mann. His latest work,
for Immortality), Die Fahrt im Einbaum oder
The Talking Cure, is about Freud and Jung but
Das Stück zum Film vom Krieg (1999, The
its first production suffered from the death of
Journey in a Canoe, or the Play about the Film
James Hazeldine before the official opening.
of the War), La Cuisine (2002)
H Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:16 Page 137

HANNAN, Chris 137

Obsessed with the problems of language and others, who carry the can for their ideals. One
communication, Handke constantly challenges such vehement individual is Elizabeth
preconceptions of theatrical form, style and Gordon Quinn, the full-blooded main char-
content. Offending the Audience – the title acter in one of Hannan’s earliest and strongest
seems all too accurate a description – conspic- plays. Though circumstance has firmly rooted
uously lacks conventional plot or character. her and her family in a poor Glasgow tene-
This ‘Sprechstück’ or ‘speech piece’ presents ment, Elizabeth believes she is better than her
four speakers of any age or sex who take an hand-to-mouth, working-class neighbours.
hour to work up to a climax of insults to the And the visible symbol of this superiority is
audience, deploying elaborate, structured her piano, which she can’t play . . . The year is
sequences, often contradicting themselves, 1919, there is a rent strike. Women are band-
subverting all possible responses. In Kaspar ing together, defying the authorities, refusing
Handke takes the story of Kaspar Hauser, who to pay. But even though it causes schism
lived without speech in total isolation until he within her own family, Elizabeth will not be
was a full-grown adult, to illustrate his thesis one of the herd if it doesn’t suit her. Hannan
that language defines personality and locks treats the ensuing scenes of domestic conflict
each of us within its patterns of cliché and with touches of wise humour that have
custom. His later work continues to explore elicited comparisons with ‘O’CASEY , and
this theme of the ‘crisis of language’ but Die with a fine understanding of the mixed
Fahrt in Einbaum caused controversy because emotions – from admiration to resentment –
of his attitudes to the crisis in Yugoslavia. such free spirits can unleash in us.
Another headstrong woman, Macu, is at
TRY THESE: the centre of The Baby. Set in ancient Rome,
‘IONESCO , ‘OVERMYER and ‘WELLMAN for this sprawling play deals with the different
word games and the attempt to construct the faces of love and the different forms of
world by the use of language; ‘BECKETT for a tyranny. Macu, in challenging political forces
similar theatrical nihilism; ‘STOPPARD for differ- she doesn’t agree with, precipitates a new
ent kinds of word games; ‘KROETZ for a similar form of personal oppression, an all-consum-
obsession with speech and communication; ing grief that taints not only her own life but
‘FRIEL ’s Translations for language as the symbol that of her friends, her enemies and especially
of cultural freedom. her gentle, devoted lover. Hannan attempts a
broad canvas – historical fact extended by his
complex fiction – and the essential drama of
HANNAN, Chris [1958 – ] Macu’s journey through loss, self-loathing
Scottish dramatist and madness to her inevitable death is jeopar-
dised as a result. Shining Souls, his greatest
PLAYS INCLUDE:
success, is set in Glasgow’s Barrowland market
Klimkov (1984), Elizabeth Gordon Quinn
as various dispossessed souls try to establish
(1985), Orphan’s Comedy (1986), Gamblers
who they are. As Neil Cooper put it in the
(1987, from ‘GOGOL ), The Evil Doers
(Glasgow) Herald, reviewing the 2003 Tron
(1990), The Baby (1990), Shining Souls
production: ‘As it gives a metaphysical voice to
(1996, revised 2003)
everyday lives desperately seeking something
The individual’s right to be just that – indivi- in the theatre’s own backyard, its ambition is
dual, non-conformist, apparently wayward as much philosophical as dramatic, fusing
and even destructive of self, is a recurring biblically epigrammatic homespun wisdom
theme in Hannan’s work. Even when the play with a deep-rooted music hall intelligence
deals with social issues of class, power, the that gift-wraps killer punchlines with a gut-
abuse of privilege and the exploitation of the wrenching venom born of tragedy and truth’.
poor and weak, at or near the centre of the
action is an individual likely to go against the TRY THESE:
accepted or expected grain. Such characters ‘CARTWRIGHT ’s Road for similarities and
are perforce often a blight on the lives of contrasts; another Scottish-based playwright
H Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:16 Page 138

138 HANSBERRY, Lorraine


concerned with individuals and their rights within completed To Be Young, Gifted and Black.
society is Peter Arnott – his plays include White Robert Nemiroff, her former husband, who
Rose (1986), Thomas Muir (1986) and Salvation completed her last two plays, also co-adapted
(1990); ‘CLIFFORD for plays that make cogent Raisin, a musical version of A Raisin in the
points about modern society through a historical Sun.
perspective; for tub-thumping politics of a
Socialist persuasion see ‘JOHN MCGRATH ; TRY THESE:
Hannan adapted ‘IBSEN ’s The Pretenders for the ‘BALDWIN ’s Amen Corner for comparable style
RSC; ‘JONSON ’s Bartholomew Fair for a parallel to but more bitter analysis of his black community;
Shining Souls. ‘ARDREY ’s Jeb for a white liberal approach to
American racism; ‘TENNESSEE WILLIAMS and
‘MILLER for contemporary white American treat-
HANSBERRY, Lorraine [1930 – 65] ments of the family; Zora Neale Hurston’s and
American dramatist ‘LANGSTON HUGHES ’ Mule Bone for contrasting
representation of black life and language;
PLAYS INCLUDE:
‘PHILLIPS ’ Strange Fruit for a more pessimistic
A Raisin in the Sun (1959), The Sign in
black British view; ‘SHANGE for contrast with
Sidney Brustein’s Window (1964), To Be
black women’s writing, thirty years later;
Young, Gifted and Black (1969, completed
‘KENNEDY , whose surreal, even grotesque,
posthumously by her former husband,
imagery contrasts with that of Hansberry.
Robert Nemiroff), Les Blancs (1970,
completed posthumously by Robert
Nemiroff)
HARE, David [1947 – ]
Like ‘O’CASEY and ‘DELANEY , Hansberry British dramatist and director
transformed the grim world around her into
PLAYS INCLUDE:
something touched with gold dust. Both The
Slag (1970), Lay By (1971, with ‘HOWARD
Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window and A Raisin
BRENTON , ‘BRIAN CLARK , ‘TREVOR GRIFFITHS ,
in the Sun are idealistic works, in which the
‘STEPHEN POLIAKOFF , Hugh Stoddart, ‘SNOO
protagonists manage to rise above adversity.
WILSON ), England’s Ireland (1972, with Tony
The latter play is considered a cornerstone in
Bicât, ‘HOWARD BRENTON , ‘BRIAN CLARK ,
the development of black theatre – a power-
‘DAVID EDGAR , Francis Fuchs, ‘SNOO
ful, poignant protest against racial injustice
WILSON ), The Great Exhibition (1972),
and white bigotry still valid today despite its
Brassneck (1973, with ‘HOWARD BRENTON ),
solid naturalism and contradictory values (a
Knuckle (1974), Teeth ’n’ Smiles (1975),
black family striving for white middle-class
Fanshen (1975), Plenty (1978), A Map of the
values). The warm-hearted characterisations
World (1982), Pravda (1985, with ‘HOWARD
of the downside Chicago family – chauffeur
BRENTON ) The Bay at Nice (1986), Wrecked
Walter Lee and his dreams of a liquor store
Eggs (1986), The Secret Rapture (1988),
and his battle for self-respect, his put-upon
Racing Demon (1989), Murmuring Judges
wife Ruth, young son, sister-in-law and above
(1991), The Absence of War (1993), Skylight
all the dominating figure of Momma – still
(1995), Amy’s View (1997), The Judas Kiss
draw audiences into their world. A Raisin in
(1998), Via Dolorosa (1998), The Blue Room
the Sun remains inspirational theatre, focus-
(1998, from ‘SCHNITZLER ’s La Ronde), My
ing as it does on a family struggling to main-
Zinc Bed (2000), The Breath of Life (2002)
tain their dignity in the face of racism, sexism
and a culture whose ethos increasingly is tied Hare came to prominence in the 1970s as one
to the fast buck. In many ways ahead of its of a breed of committed socialist writers,
time, the play ran for two years on Broadway many of whom he collaborated with on Lay
(winning the coveted New York Critics’ Circle By and England’s Ireland. He founded
Award for 1959). Hansberry died of cancer at Portable Theatre with the dramatist Tony
the age of 34. It was she who inspired the song Bicât in 1968 and the Joint Stock company
Nina Simone took from the posthumously with William Gaskill and Max Stafford-Clark
H Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:16 Page 139

HANSBERRY, Lorraine 139

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, directed by David Lan, Young Vic and Salisbury Playhouse
production, 2001. Cecilia Noble as Ruth, Lennie James as Walter Lee Younger. (Pete Jones/ArenaPAL)
Page 140
16:16
2/4/07
H Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp

HARE, David
The Breath of Life by David Hare, directed by Howard Davies, Theatre Royal Haymarket, 2002. Judi Dench as Francis Beale, Maggie Smith as Madeleine Palmer.
140 (Pete Jones/ArenaPAL)
H Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:16 Page 141

HARRIS, Richard 141

in 1974. He has also been literary manager about ‘ OSCAR WILDE and Lord Alfred
and resident dramatist at the Royal Court and Douglas. The huge success of The Blue Room,
ran one of the companies at the National Hare’s version of ‘SCHNITZLER ’s La Ronde,
Theatre. Hare also carved out a singular niche owed a great deal to Nicole Kidman’s nudity.
in television with Licking Hitler (1978) and A national tour in 2003 starred Tracy Shaw,
Dreams of Leaving (1980). formerly of Coronation Street, and Jason
Fanshen, a documentary drama about the Connery. Hare is scheduled to tackle the 1991
Chinese revolution, was a seminal play of the Conservative decision to privatise the railways
1970s, popularising the Joint Stock rehearsal in a play for Out of Joint and the National
method. Unusually for Hare, the play concen- Theatre in late 2003.
trates on the processes of revolution rather
than individual character. His plays are TRY THESE:
predominantly concerned with the topo- ‘BOND and‘BRECHT , like Fanshen, use epic style
graphy of personal relationships and he has and geographical or spatially distanced settings;
cornered a market in ‘serious’ debate plays, for World War II see ‘RATTIGAN ’s The Deep Blue
often centred round women. This has Sea, Ian McEwan’s The Imitation Game, ‘LOWE ’s
attracted star actresses to his work but there Touched; ‘JONSON , particularly Bartholomew Fair
are still those who are suspicious of the regu- and The Devil is an Ass, for violently entertaining
larity with which the women are the sacrificial attacks on capitalism; ‘MARLOWE ’s Dr Faustus for
victims of his dramaturgy. Plenty attempts to the interplay between a dupe and a satanic figure
use the story of the mental disintegration of which parallels the relationship between the
its heroine, a former World War II Resistance ineffectual editor and the magnate in Pravda;
worker, to reflect the collapse of British post- ‘FRAYN and ‘HECHT and MacArthur for news-
war ideals, part of Hare’s continuing pre- papers; ‘BRENTON ’s Epsom Downs, ‘TREVOR
occupation with wartime and immediate GRIFFITHS ’ Comedians, ‘NICHOLS ’ The National
post-war England. Audiences have tended to Health for plays that examine the state of Britain;
focus on the heroine’s neuroticism but Hare for rock musicals taking the temperature of a
insists on the importance of the social context nation in similar fashion to Teeth ’n’ Smiles,
to which she responds. Pravda is an exuber- ‘KEEFFE ’s Bastard Angel; Hare has adapted
antly comic political satire of the newspaper ‘BRECHT , ‘CHEKHOV and ‘PIRANDELLO ; he is
business on an epic scale, featuring an ener- increasingly seen as a modern ‘SHAW ;
getically ruthless, reptilian newspaper ‘PASCAL ’s Crossing Jerusalem for Palestine.
magnate. As in Plenty, the leading female
character carries the play’s moral force, but
remains an unreal, one-dimensional figure, HARRIS, Richard [1934 – ]
on the periphery of the main action. The British dramatist
Secret Rapture concentrates on the contrast-
PLAYS INCLUDE:
ing attitudes of two sisters to questions of
Albert and Virginia (1972), Two and Two
morality and caring. Racing Demon pursues
Make Sex (1973, with Leslie Darbon), Who
similar spiritual themes in the context of
Goes Bare (1974 with Leslie Darbon), Outside
modern attitudes to religious faith and
Edge (1979), The Business of Murder (1981),
became the first in a trilogy of plays examin-
Stepping Out (1984), The Maintenance Man
ing the moribund elements of modern British
(1986), Visiting Hour (1990), Party Piece
institutions: Murmuring Judges tackled the
(1991, originally Local Affairs, 1982), Mixed
judiciary and The Absence of War political
Blessings (1991, with Keith Strachan), Dead
parties (facilitated by access to Neil Kinnock’s
Guilty (1995, as Murder Once Done, 1994),
election campaign).
Stepping Out the Musical (1997) In Two
Recent exceptions to Hare’s usual interests
Minds (2001)
(which are pursued in Amy’s View and The
Breath of Life) are Via Dolorosa, a monologue Now probably best-known for his television
reflecting his experiences on a visit to Israel work, over the years Harris has achieved great
and Palestine, and The Judas Kiss, which is commercial success with his stage plays and
H Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:16 Page 142

142 HARRIS, Zinnie


they remain extremely popular with amateur TRY THESE:
companies. The Business of Murder played for ‘CHEKHOV ’s Three Sisters for a sense of exile;
over seven years in the West End before touring ‘IBSEN for problematic returns; ‘BEHAN ,
for well over a year. Outside Edge, an ‘GENET , ‘HOLBOROUGH , ‘PUIG for prisons.
‘AYCKBOURNESQUE farce set in a cricket
pavilion, won the Evening Standard Comedy
Award for 1979 and has been a stalwart of the HARRISON, Tony [1937 – ]
circuit ever since, as well as spawning a tele- British poet and dramatist
vision series. Stepping Out, a comedy set in an
PLAYS (ORIGINALS AND TRANSLATIONS)
adult education tap-dancing class, follows the
INCLUDE:
fortunes of nine women and one man as they
Aikin Mata (1965, from ‘ARISTOPHANES ’
transform from awkward dancers to a final
Lysistrata, with James Simmons), The
Chorus Line troupe. A gentle, unchallenging
Misanthrope (1973, from ‘MOLIÈRE ),
play, it was successful in the West End, on
Phaedra Britannica (1975, from ‘RACINE ),
Broadway, as a film and eventually as a musical.
The Mysteries (1977 onwards, comprising
The Nativity, The Passion, Doomsday), The
TRY THESE:
Oresteia (1981, from ‘AESCHYLUS ), Medea:
For women together:‘DUNN ’s Steaming, set in a
Sex War (1985), The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus
Turkish bath, Tony Roper’s The Steamie, set in a
(1988, revised 1990, from ‘SOPHOCLES ), The
Scottish bath-house;‘AYCKBOURN , ‘BENNETT ,
Common Chorus (1992, from
‘COONEY , ‘FRAYN for other forms of English
‘ARISTOPHANES ’ Lysistrata), Square Rounds
comedy; ‘ANTHONY SHAFFER for thrillers; Bonnie
(1992), The Kaisers of Karnuntum (1995),
Greer’s Jitterbug for the importance of dance in
The Labours of Herakles (1995), The Prince’s
people’s lives.
Play (1996, from Victor Hugo)
A poet and translator, Harrison made his
HARRIS, Zinnie [1973 – ] theatre debut in 1965, collaborating with
British dramatist and director James Simmons on an adaptation of
Aristophanes in a Nigerian setting. Harrison
PLAYS INCLUDE:
had spent four years in Nigeria after reading
By Many Wounds (1999), Further Than the
classics at the University of Leeds. His reputa-
Furthest Thing (2000), Nightingale and Chase
tion as a poet of international standing was
(2001)
secured by the time he turned his attention to
Harris won the John Whiting Award for the theatre again in the mid-1970s with
Further Than the Furthest Thing, an extra- much-praised translations of ‘MOLIÈRE and
ordinary response to the evacuation of the ‘RACINE . He has also collaborated with the
island of Tristan da Cunha in 1961 when its composer Harrison Birtwistle on an opera,
volcano erupted. Although based on factual Yan Tan Tethera, and has translated Smetana’s
events and indebted to family memories of The Bartered Bride. His version of The
the island, the play moves beyond re-creation Oresteia was great theatre and marvellous
of and lament for a way of life into an writing. The complete cycle of his medieval
exploration of the meaning of exile and mystery plays was presented at the National
community that transcends its origins. Theatre’s Cottesloe auditorium and sub-
Similarly, although Nightingale and Chase sequently at the Lyceum in 1986. The juxta-
owes something to the time Harris spent as a position of an austere classical tradition and
creative writing teacher in a prison, it trans- proletarian irreverence is sometimes startling,
cends the immediate situation of how people often entertaining and controversial, as in the
react to one another when one returns home extended poem V. Much of his later work has
after leaving prison into a study of the diffi- been staged outside conventional theatres,
culties of negotiating any kind of liminal often in ancient venues, and much of it has
moment and the ways in which contradictory been concerned with a dialogue between
expectations can wreck a reunion. classical myths and modern experience.
H Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:16 Page 143

HARVEY, Jonathan 143

The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus TRY THESE:


Two Oxford dons travel to Egypt in 1907 on Harrower has adapted work by ‘CHEKHOV ,
the trail of a lost manuscript. The rediscovery ‘FOSSE , ‘IBSEN , ‘PIRANDELLO ; ‘BARKER ’s The
of a fragment of a satyr play by ‘SOPHOCLES Castle for medieval women; ‘FRIEL ’s Translations
and the situation of the homeless in present- for language and love; ‘CARTWRIGHT and
day ‘cardboard city’ are used to demonstrate ‘LUCIE for varieties of alienation; ‘RUSSELL for
comically the spurious divisions between high the Beatles; ‘HARE ’s Teeth ’n’ Smiles, ‘KEEFFE ’s
and low culture. The effect is brilliantly Bastard Angel for rock bands.
enhanced by Harrison’s imaginative use of
language and physical action, and his playing
with convention – you don’t often find your- HART, Moss
self singing along in ancient Greek at the See KAUFMAN, George S.
National (and enjoying it!).

TRY THESE: HARVEY, Jonathan [1967 – ]


‘BARTLETT, who also translated The Misanthrope, is British dramatist
also an exponent of mixing high and low culture;
PLAYS INCLUDE:
‘AESCHYLUS and ‘EURIPIDES for ancient Greek
The Cherry Blossom Tree (1987), Mohair
drama; ‘BREUER, ‘CHURCHILL, ‘DUFFY,
(1988), Beautiful Thing (1993), Babies
‘WERTENBAKER for other modern responses to it;
(1994), Boom Bang-a-Bang (1995), The
‘ELIOT for a major contrast to Harrison’s response
Rupert Street Lonely Hearts Club (1995),
to the classics; Harrison’s second version of
Guiding Star (1998), Hushabye Mountain
Lysistrata updates the story to Greenham (1999), Out in the Open (2001), Closer to
Common: for other Greenham plays see ‘DANIELS’
Heaven (2001, musical)
The Devil’s Gateway, ‘EDGAR’s Maydays, ‘NOEL
GREIG’s Poppies and ‘REID’s My Name Shall ITell You Liverpool-born Harvey established himself
My Name; John Barton’s The Greeks (with Kenneth with Beautiful Thing, a play about young gay
Cavander) and Tantalus for other approaches to men living in an urban housing estate that
ancient Greek material. challenged all manner of stereotypes by show-
ing true love winning through in the face of
initial prejudice. Remarkable for its scenes of
HARROWER, David [1966 – ] burgeoning attraction, it appealed to both gay
Scottish dramatist and straight audiences with its almost fairy-
tale quality of love conquering all. Babies is
PLAYS INCLUDE:
apparently semi-autobiographical in its tale of
Knives and Hens (1995), The Chrysalids
a young teacher going to a pupil’s party, while
(1996, from John Wyndham), Kill the Old,
Boom Bang-a-Bang is about another party,
Torture Their Young (1998), Begin Again
this one involving a group of friends meeting
(1999), Presence (2001)
to watch the Eurovision Song Contest.
Harrower established himself with Knives and Unsurprisingly neither party goes smoothly.
Hens, a three-hander set in medieval times in In The Rupert Street Lonely Hearts Club there
which a young woman learns how to express is a trail of misdirected and unrequited loves,
herself and as result begins to exert control Hushabye Mountain tackles the repercussions
over her life. In Kill the Old, a filmmaker for the family and friend after the death of a
returns to a city not a million miles from young man from AIDS and Out in the Open
Glasgow to make a documentary and the play follows a similar path with the survivor of a
follows the intercutting lives of his subjects as gay relationship trying to end his period of
it exposes their different forms of alienation. mourning but beset by secrets and lies on all
Begin Again is a noirish treatment of post-war sides. Closer to Heaven (created with the Pet
spiv culture and Presence explores the rites of Shop Boys) uses the gay club scene as its
passage of a young group of Liverpudlian setting. Rather different from these is Guiding
musicians in Hamburg in the early 1960s. Star, which deals with the phenomenon of
H Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:16 Page 144

144 HARWOOD, Ronald


‘survivor’s guilt’ as it affects a family whose lay in Harwood’s uncovering of the sinews of
male members survived the Hillsborough an embattled lower-middle-class Jewish
disaster. marriage and the process of ageing. Taking
Sides and Mahler’s Conversion also tackle
TRY THESE: musical subjects with Jewish contexts: Taking
‘ELYOT , ‘RAVENHILL for different contemporary Sides deals with the post-war interrogation of
gay sensibilities; ‘ALBEE ’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia the conductor Wilhelm Fürtwängler, who
Woolf?, ‘ELYOT ’s My Night with Reg, ‘TREVOR chose to stay in Nazi Germany, while Mahler’s
GRIFFITHS ’ The Party, ‘LEIGH ’s Abigail’s Party for Conversion examines why Mahler chose to
unhappy social gatherings; ‘AYCKBOURN for convert from Judaism to Christianity.
general social unease and Absent Friends for post-
mortem social solecisms. TRY THESE:
For the performer’s life, see the very different
views of ‘COWARD ’s Hay Fever, ‘TREVOR
HARWOOD, Ronald [1934 – ] GRIFFITHS ’ Comedians, ‘HAYES ’ Not Waving,
South African-born novelist and dramatist ‘NELSON ’s Two Shakespearean Actors,
‘OSBORNE ’s The Entertainer, ‘PRIESTLEY ’s The
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Country Matters (1969), A Family (1978),
Good Companions; Graham Greene for plays
about loss of faith; ‘PETER SHAFFER ’s Amadeus
The Dresser (1980), After the Lions (1982),
for musical genius; ‘POWNALL and ‘C. P.
Tramway Road (1984), Interpreters (1985),
TAYLOR ’s Good for music and totalitarianism;
The Deliberate Death of a Polish Priest (1985),
‘SAUNDERS adapted his novel The Girl in Melanie
J. J. Farr (1987), Another Time (1989),
Reflected Glory (1991), Taking Sides (1995),
Klein; Harwood adapted Francis Veber’s Le Dîner de
Mahler’s Conversion (2001)
Cons as See You Next Tuesday.
Born in South Africa, Harwood joined Sir
Donald Wolfit’s Shakespeare Company as HASTINGS, Michael [1938 – ]
actor and dresser to this last of the old-style British dramatist
actor-managers (an experience which later
PLAYS INCLUDE:
spawned a biography and the play The
Don’t Destroy Me (1956), Yes – and After
Dresser). He continued as an actor until 1959,
(1957), The World’s Baby (1964), Lee Harvey
but in 1960 he had a play produced on televi-
Oswald (1966), The Cutting of the Cloth
sion and he published his first novel in 1961.
(1973), For the West (1977), Gloo Joo (1978),
His subjects have been varied and his work is
Full Frontal (1979), Carnival War a Go Hot
difficult to categorise in any medium, though
(1979), Midnite at the Starlite (1980), Tom and
you can expect well-characterised parts for
Viv (1984), The Emperor (1986), A Dream of
actors and a strong sense of theatre. He won
People (1990), Unfinished Business (1994)
an Oscar for his script for The Pianist in 2003.
The Dresser remains probably his most Hastings has produced memorable plays in a
successful play. Inspired by, though not a wide range of genres over many years from his
portrait of, Wolfit and his company, it is set on debut with Don’t Destroy Me, an exploration
tour in the provinces in the middle of World of a Jewish household in Brixton, which was
War II, as the actor-manager gets through his produced when he was only eighteen and
last performance of King Lear. Anyone with working as a tailor’s apprentice. The World’s
memories of that kind of theatre will recog- Baby, a Sunday-night Royal Court perform-
nise the authenticity with which Harwood has ance with Vanessa Redgrave as the central
captured it. Another Time, also drawing on character, a woman whom the play follows
Harwood’s own experience – this time, a over twenty years, was never given a full-scale
South African childhood (the setting, too, of production.
Tramway Road) – was a theatrical tour de Lee Harvey Oswald is an example of what
force. Ostensibly dealing with the nature of was known at the time as ‘Theatre of Fact’, a
musical genius, the heart and soul of the play sort of documentary account of Oswald’s life
H Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:16 Page 145

HAVEL, Vackav 145

up to the point of Kennedy’s assassination. Havel did not like the term ‘dissident’, but
Gloo Joo, a study of a West Indian’s experience from 1969 until the extraordinary run of
of London, was produced at the Hampstead events in November 1989 that brought down
Theatre Club and transferred to the West End. the Czech communist government and soon
The Emperor, a controversial account of after installed him as his country’s President,
Emperor Haile Selassie (there were protests he was known in the West as Czechoslovakia’s
outside from Ethiopians and Rastafarians), leading dissident playwright. Havel preferred
was a subtle if quirky study of power and its to see it in terms of ‘living in truth’; his plays
acolyte tendencies. A Dream of People is a from that period (notably the three that are
complex and compelling examination of the known as the Vanek plays, Audience, Private
resonant relationships between past, present View and Protest) bear witness to that ‘living
and future, personal and public morality, in truth’ as a stubborn, unflinching morality.
morality and expediency, all focused through The plays themselves are far from perfect
the issue of pensions. dramatic models, being short on conflict and
little more than talking-head pieces. But the
Tom and Viv delineations of the characters and their
Probably Hastings’ most successful play, Tom relationship to society are fascinatingly
and Viv pursues his concern with the created, and what they have to say about
theatrical possibilities of biography in a study personal integrity, individual responsibility
of the fraught marriage between ‘T. S. ELIOT and ‘accommodation’ to the system have as
and his first wife, Vivienne Haigh-Wood. much resonance for audiences in the West as
Vivienne ended her life in a mental hospital, for those for whom the plays were then
and the play explores her mental fragility, her intended. In fact, Havel had not been able to
tortuous relationship with Eliot, and the see any of his own plays after 1969 (except for
contemporary British upper-class culture that a video of Temptation smuggled in by the
produced Vivienne. The play is ultimately RSC). They were not published openly in
quite unsympathetic to Eliot and his role in Czechoslovakia, though they had been widely
their relationship. performed in the West.
Havel had wanted to study drama at univer-
TRY THESE: sity, but because of his ‘bourgeois’ family back-
‘WALCOTT ’s O Babylon for other views of Haile ground he was forced to start as a stagehand;
Selassie; ‘MANN for ‘Theater of Testimony’ he then worked as a lighting technician and
documentary style; ‘ABBENSETTS , ‘KEEFFE ’s later became dramaturg at the avant-garde
King of England, ‘MATURA , ‘PHILLIPS , ‘WHITE Prague Theatre on the Balustrade, for which he
for contrasting views of West Indians in London; began to write plays in the 1960s. The
for other plays about poets and their domestic Memorandum showed one of his recurring
lives, ‘BRENTON ’s Bloody Poetry (Byron and the themes: life in an organisation where mechan-
Shelleys), ‘BOND ’s Bingo, ‘GLASPELL ’s Alison’s ical clichés and deformation of language
House (based on Emily Dickinson), ‘LOCHHEAD ’s conceal the fact that nothing actually gets
Blood and Ice (the Shelleys), ‘WHITEMORE ’s Stevie done, and employees are always watching their
(Stevie Smith). backs. In 1968 he left the Theatre on the
Balustrade, and he was effectively excluded
from live theatre after the Soviet invasion of
HAVEL, Vaclav [1936 – ] that year, although there were various clandes-
Czech dramatist, dissident and latterly President tine stagings including his version of ‘GAY’s
Beggar’s Opera in 1975. (It was given its British
PLAYS INCLUDE:
premiere in 2003 at the Orange Tree). He
The Memorandum (1967), The Garden Party
continued to work for human rights and in
(1969), The Increased Difficulty of
1977 was a founder member of Charter 77. He
Concentration (1972), Audience, Private View
was imprisoned in 1979 for his involvement in
and Protest (three short plays, 1978), Mistake
VONS (the Committee for the Defence of the
(1983), Largo Desolato (1987), Temptation
Unjustly Prosecuted). ‘SAMUEL BECKETT
(1989), Redevelopment (1990)
H Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:16 Page 146

146 HAVIS, Allan


dedicated Catastrophe, possibly the nearest he Many of Havis’ plays are intrigues dealing
ever went to making a political statement, to with political and metaphysical evil. In Haut
him during this imprisonment. Largo Desolato Gout, an American doctor is caught up in the
shows a dissident scholar reduced to near- Haitian revolution; Hospitality covers two
nervous breakdown by the impossibility of political detainees in an American immigra-
living up to his reputation as a symbol of tion service detention centre; and in Morocco,
resistance and is an allegory of the artist’s rela- an American architect tries to free his wife
tionship to society. Temptation is another satire from a Moroccan prison where she is held on
on organisational hierarchies and yes men. charges of prostitution. Lilith, based on Jewish
Based on the Faust story, it has a broader satir- folklore, tells of Adam’s divorce from his first
ical sweep than his earlier plays, showing wife, and of her ensuing competition with
multiple layers of fear, disloyalty and double- Eve.
cross. Dr Foustka, who wishes to study forbid-
den knowledge, is tempted to ever-meaner TRY THESE:
betrayals by a Mephistophelean figure with For a late nineteenth-century look at sex roles,
smelly feet, who turns out to be a spy for the ‘STRINDBERG ’s Miss Julie; for dark perspectives on
director of his Institute. All is revealed at a wild modern family life, ‘ALBEE ’s Who’s Afraid of
Walpurgisnacht fancy dress party. Virginia Woolf?, ‘FEIFFER ’s Little Murders and
‘SHEPARD ’s True West; for politics, ‘EDGAR ,
TRY THESE: ‘KOPIT ’s Indians, ‘NELSON ’s Principia Scriptoriae,
‘MROZEK, for eastern European plays using ‘RABE ’s Streamers, ‘WEISS ’s The Investigation;
absurdist techniques to show political despera- ‘DANIELS ’ Beside Herself also features Lilith.
tion; Soviet playwright Alexsandr Gelman’s We,the
Undersigned and A Man with Connections for more
barbed revelations of bureaucratic bungling HAYES, Catherine [1949 – ]
under communism; ‘EDGAR’s The Shape of the British dramatist
Table features Havel in its fictionalised account of PLAYS INCLUDE:
events in Prague in November 1989; ‘STOPPARD
Little Sandra (1976), Not Waving (1983),
(Kenneth Tynan was the first to link these two
Skirmishes (1982), Long Time Gone (1986)
Czechs and to see Stoppard’s potential political
streak); ‘MILLER’s The Archbishop’s Ceiling for east When she was younger, Hayes wanted to be a
European dissidents; ‘GOETHE and ‘MARLOWE detective. Instead she became a French
for the Faust story; ‘WERTENBAKER’s The Grace of teacher, and it was only when she saw ‘ALAN
Mary Traverse has Faustian resonances; ‘BRECHT BLEASDALE ’s advertisement for new writers
and ‘DEAR for responses to ‘GAY; ‘SAUNDERS for the Liverpool Playhouse that she decided
adapted Redevelopment. to turn her hand to plays. Skirmishes, the play
that brought her to public attention, has been
performed all over the world. It casts an
HAVIS, Allan [1951 – ] unsentimental eye on the subject of
American dramatist mother–daughter and sibling relationships.
Round a dying mother’s bed, a bitter, if witty,
PLAYS INCLUDE:
war of verbal and emotional attrition is let
Mink Sonata (1986), Haul Gout (1987),
loose as two sisters give vent to long-stored-
Hospitality (1988), Morocco (1988), A Daring
up resentments and misunderstandings.
Bride (1990), Lilith (1990), Ladies of Fisher
Hayes’ drama is a searing yet compassionate
Cove (1991), Albert the Astronomer (1991)
analysis, confronting painful truths about
A native New Yorker, Havis received graduate death, love and the awful taboos to do with
degrees in drama from Hunter College and duty. Further revelations of female self-doubt
Yale. Though he started writing in the mid- and vulnerability were also behind Not
1970s, his work began to be performed only Waving, about the crumbling fortunes of a
in the late 1980s, largely at off-off-Broadway female cabaret comic, brought on by ill
and regional theatres. health, failing confidence (she can’t get the
H Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:16 Page 147

HECHT, Ben 147

audience to laugh any more) and a break-up are best known for two plays, The Front Page
with her manager. Variations on both subjects and Twentieth Century, both of which became
turned up again in Long Time Gone – another films – or, in the case of the former, several
delve into sibling rivalries, and love/hate rela- films. Each is a kind of courtship comedy. In
tionships, this time around the Cain and Abel Front Page, an editor tries to lure his star
myth of brothers. Hayes took the 1960s pop reporter away from his fiancée by extolling
stars the Everley Brothers as her model but the passion of journalism over that of
freely embroidered it in facts and chronology romance. In Twentieth Century, which
– an approach which some reviewers became a hit Broadway and West End musical
accepted, but to which others, surprisingly, in the late 1970s, an egomaniacal Broadway
took a certain exception. She has since written producer makes a young shop girl a star, and
extensively for television, contributing many when she makes moves to leave him, he
episodes to the soap opera Coronation Street. spends a lengthy train journey trying to win
her back. Ladies and Gentlemen, a romantic
TRY THESE: thriller set during a trial, was MacArthur’s
‘NORMAN ’s ’Night Mother takes an equally attempt to concoct a vehicle for his wife,
painful view of the symbiotic mother–daughter Helen Hayes.
relationship; ‘KEARSLEY , ‘MACDONALD , ‘PAGE
and ‘RAIF have all dealt with mothers and The Front Page
daughters; ‘DELANEY ’s A Taste of Honey and A perennial favourite for revivals (most
‘JELLICOE ’s The Sport of My Mad Mother for more recently at Chichester in 2002 and in London
extended treatments, one realistic, the other at the Donmar Warehouse), this gregarious
surreal; ‘BILL ’s Curtains also deals with family tale of Chicago newspapermen in the 1920s
pressures around a dying mother; ‘TREMBLAY ’s has spawned three films, one musical (the
Johnny Mangano and His Astonishing Dogs has a 1982 Windy City) and any number of spiritual
cabaret club setting for its two downward children, including the film Chicago. Politics
spiralling performers; ‘TREVOR GRIFFITHS ’ were not upmost in Hecht and MacArthur’s
Comedians and ‘OSBORNE ’s The Entertainer are minds as they spun a rapid-fire yarn about a
more extended explorations of comedy as prop scheming editor’s attempts to keep his star
and social weapon; ‘NICHOLS ’ A Day in the Death reporter, Hildy Johnson, from succumbing to
of Joe Egg for comparable humour; ‘BLEASDALE ’s the enticements of love; but in its subplots
Are You Lonesome Tonight? plays freely with the about corruption in the sheriff ’s office and its
Presley legend. often blistering portrait of male camaraderie,
the play can seem surprisingly biting and
contemporary.
HECHT, Ben [1894 – 1964]
American dramatist TRY THESE:
The Front Page and Chicago share a background in
MacARTHUR, Charles [1895 – 1956] Chicago journalism of the 1920s: former Chicago
American dramatist Tribune writer Maurine Watkins wrote a play called
JOINT PLAYS INCLUDE:
Chicago that eventually (via a silent film and the
film Roxie Hart) became the 1970s musical and
The Front Page (1928), Twentieth Century
recent film; ‘BABE ’s Buried Inside Extra,
(1932), Jumbo (1935, book of the musical),
‘BRENTON and ‘HARE ‘s Pravda, Stephen
Ladies and Gentlemen (1939), Swan Song
Wakelam’s Deadlines for other newspaper plays;
(1946)
‘ABBOTT ’s Broadway and ‘KAUFMAN and Hart
A team who found success together writing for similarly large-scale, rumbustious American
screenplays, and also on their own, Hecht and works; ‘MAMET (especially Glengarry Glen Ross)
MacArthur helped define a style of boister- for capturing both the brio and the venality that
ous, cheerfully anarchic comedy which is go with careerism.
definably American in its determined avoid-
ance of anything genteel or refined. The duo
H Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:16 Page 148

148 HEDDEN, Roger


HEDDEN, Roger [1960 – ] One-time PT instructor, drama teacher and
American dramatist and screenwriter/director member of the Royal Court’s writing group,
Glasgow-born Heggie took the theatre world
PLAYS INCLUDE:
by storm with A Wholly Healthy Glasgow.
Been Taken (1985), Terry Neal’s Future
Awarded a special prize in the first Mobil
(1986), Bodies, Rest and Motion (1986), The
Playwriting competition in 1985, it was taken
Artistic Direction (1990), As Sure as You Live
up by Manchester’s Royal Exchange, toured
(1991)
the Edinburgh Festival and came to the Royal
A 1984 graduate of Columbia University, Court in February 1988 (being televised at
Hedden observes a society on the run, search- about the same time). Hailed as Glasgow’s
ing for some greater meaning in life, and yet answer to ‘DAVID MAMET , Heggie’s dialogue,
never standing still long enough to find it. steeped in Glaswegian, is the driving force of
‘People don’t take the time to see what’s his work, with its febrile energy and oddball
around them or inside of them’, comments syntax. Set in a health club, the play has been
Hedden. He finds his message best expressed seen by some as a metaphor of modern-day
in comedy, and his deft language explores the survival; nearly all agreed that, in the words of
power of dramatic irony In Bodies, Rest and the Observer’s critic, Michael Ratcliffe, it is
Motion we follow the desperate wanderings of ‘one of the funniest plays of the last few years’.
the principal character who along the way However, in a post-AIDS climate, it is also fair
loses his parents (who moved without leaving to say that its libidinous gay character, with
a forwarding address), his girlfriend (whom eyes set on ‘a bit of nookie every fifteen
he abandons), and the job he thought he seconds’, now seems like a limp-wristed
wanted in the ‘city of the future’ – Canton, throwback to another era. American Bagpipes,
Ohio. Been Taken traces the changing expect- a suburban comedy about family disintegra-
ations of young college students over a five- tion, was commissioned and produced whilst
year period from their campus antics through he was writer-in-residence at the Royal
life in the workaday world. He wrote the Exchange. Clyde Nouveau examines the world
screenplay for the film of Bodies, Rest and of small-time thieves and big-time property
Motion and produced and wrote the film speculators. An Experienced Woman Gives
Sleep With Me before turning to direction Advice takes the situation of an older woman
with Hi-Life for which he also wrote the who starts off relaxed about her younger
screenplay. lover’s adventure until more truths are
revealed. Wiping My Mother’s Arse has some
TRY THESE: similarities as a situation gradually unravels
For characters who develop from their college to the discomfort of the characters through
days, ‘WASSERSTEIN ’s Uncommon Women and the catalyst of a camp care assistant. In Love
Others; for characters in search of meaning, Freaks, which is derived from ‘MARIVAUX ’s
‘CHEKHOV ’s The Seagull, ‘GUARE ’s House of Blue The Double Inconstancy, Heggie sets his
Leaves, ‘WELLER ’s Moonchildren, and protagonists against one another in the
‘TENNESSEE WILLIAMS ’ Camino Real. context of global capitalism, as a reluctant
trainee with an international coffee-shop
company finds herself at the centre of
HEGGIE, Iain [1953 – ] personal and political entanglements with her
Scottish dramatist activist boyfriend and the heir to the coffee-
shop business.
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Politics in the Park (1986), A Wholly Healthy
TRY THESE:
Glasgow (1987), American Bagpipes (1988),
‘CARTWRIGHT ’s Road for a similarly dynamic use
Clyde Nouveau (1990), Lust (1992), Tourist
of language; ‘BYRNE ’s The Slab Boys Trilogy for a
Variations (1993, book for musical), An
similarly volatile if more socialist view of Glasgow
Experienced Woman Gives Advice (1995),
working life; ‘MAMET ’s Glengarry Glen Ross for an
Wiping My Mother’s Arse (2001), Love Freaks
American equivalent of small-time capitalism;
(2002)
H Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:16 Page 149

HENLEY, Beth 149

Heggie has adapted Don Juan (1998) from is the injuries people inflict on each other in
‘MOLIÈRE and ‘GOGOL ’s Diary of a Madman as the name of security and love; in Watch on the
King of Scotland (2000). Rhine, it is American non-interventionism,
the spectre of fascism and the Holocaust.
Several of her plays have women in central
HELLMAN, Lillian [1905 – 84] roles, but by contemporary feminist stand-
American dramatist, screenwriter and journalist ards they lack any radical reassessment –
rather, they reinforce certain female stereo-
PLAYS INCLUDE:
types.
The Children’s Hour (1934), Days to Come
Hellman is a character in the 1977 film
(1936), The Little Foxes (1939), Watch on the
Julia, based on her memoirs, and Lillian,
Rhine (1941), The Searching Wind (1944),
William Luce’s 1985 biographical play based
Another Part of the Forest (1946), Montserrat
on her, proved that, posthumously, Hellman
(1949), Regina (1949), The Autumn Garden
remains as controversial as ever.
(1951), The Lark (1955, from ‘ANOUILH ),
Candide (1956, musical), Toys in the Attic
The Children’s Hour
(1960), My Mother, My Father and Me (1963,
First produced in 1934, this is probably one of
adapted from Burt Blechman’s novel How
her best-known and certainly most successful
Much?)
plays. Audaciously, for its time, it tackles the
Playwright and long-time companion of taboo subject of lesbianism, although the real
thriller writer Dashiell Hammett, Hellman’s subject of the play is considered to be the
wit is typical of the Dorothy Parker period destructiveness of innuendo and rumour.
(she was a close personal friend). To Predictably for the period, the tale is a tragic
audiences now, however, Hellman is probably one: one of the teachers is accused by a
less associated with the theatre than with the revengeful pupil of having an ‘unnatural’ rela-
writing of such classic films as The Little tionship with a colleague and commits
Foxes, which starred Bette Davis. Her volumes suicide. Hellman’s achievement is to show the
of autobiography, Scoundrel Time, Pentimento consequences of the pupil’s ‘little lie’ and,
and An Unfinished Woman, were the subject perhaps inadvertently, the consequences of
of a huge literary controversy regarding their society’s intolerance towards lesbianism. The
historical reliability and truthfulness, National Theatre staged it in 1994.
although her stand against the House Un-
American Activities Committee is legendary, TRY THESE:
if still disputed. ‘JONSON for characters as embodiments of moral
Her plays are not much seen in Britain, By evil; ‘TENNESSEE WILLIAMS for Southern settings; for
modern standards, they are shamelessly melo- other female ‘villains’, ‘EURIPIDES’ Medea, ‘IBSEN’s
dramatic, though they do also have a moral Hedda Gabler, ‘RACINE’s Phèdre; ‘AYCKBOURN for
centre, ruthlessly exposing money as the most dramas of family life; ‘MILLER’s The Crucible for the
corrosive of agents, particularly in the family. consequences of spiteful rumour; for a contrasting
Hellman’s malign protagonists often have the contemporary treatment of plays on an anti-fascist
best of the fray (and afford golden opportuni- theme, Maxwell Anderson; ‘CHEKHOV for family
ties for actresses to play a ‘bitch’), but she uses sagas of tight narrative, leisurely discussion and
them to show human perversity and the high moral intent: ‘DANIELS’ Neaptide for
destructive power of evil on human relation- lesbianism and teachers.
ships. Her world of decaying aristocrats and
the upwardly mobile middle classes is
frequently a world of moral bankruptcy. HENLEY, Beth [1952 – ]
Throughout her plays there is, too, a consis- American dramatist
tent concern to voice uncomfortable
PLAYS INCLUDE:
emotional truths as well as socio-political
Am I Blue (1973), Crimes of the Heart (1979),
issues: in Toys in the Attic, her Southern
The Miss Firecracker Contest (1980), The
portrait of a man dominated by two sisters, it
Wake of Jamey Foster (1982), The Debutante
H Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:16 Page 150

150 HEYWOOD, Thomas


Ball (1985), The Lucky Spot (1986), TRY THESE:
Abundance (1989), Control Freaks (1992), Heywood’s treatment of adultery in A Woman
Signature (1995), L-Play (1996), Impossible Killed with Kindness contrasts strikingly with
Marriage (1998), Family Week (2000) ‘SHAKESPEARE ’s in Othello; The Fair Maid of the
West is one of many Renaissance plays to use the
Born in Jackson, Mississippi, Henley epito- so-called substitute bed mate trick which occurs
mises the Southern Gothic voice in American most notably in ‘MIDDLETON ’s The Changeling as
playwriting. Crimes of the Heart, her Pulitzer well as ‘SHAKESPEARE ’s All’s Well That Ends Well
Prize-winning play, introduced Henley’s and Measure for Measure; the anonymous A
cheerfully eccentric tone and lunatic domestic Yorkshire Tragedy for an interesting Renaissance
tangles. Set five years after Hurricane Camille, parallel to A Woman Killed with Kindness.
Crimes of the Heart generates a comic tempest
of its own as the three McGrath sisters
struggle to make their peace with a world that HIGHWAY, Tomson [1951 – ]
never quite matches their perceptions of it. Canadian dramatist
Her later plays extended Henley’s gallery of
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Southern eccentrics who counter the world’s
The Rez Sisters (1987), Dry Lips Ought to
cruelties with daffy strategies for survival,
Move to Kapuskasing (1989)
though none has been as well received as
Crimes of the Heart. Highway is one of the major forces in Native
People’s theatre in Canada. For many years,
TRY THESE: the Native people or ‘Indians’ of North
‘CHEKHOV ’s Three Sisters for another family of America have felt that their culture was some-
grown sisters clinging to a vision of a world thing both used and abused by the white
elsewhere; ‘LARSON , ‘LEVI LEE , ‘NORMAN for people. In Canada, in recent years, Native
playwrights with a similar Southern sensibility; people have started to claim back theatre for
‘KAUFMAN and Hart for families bound by their themselves, producing work that is performed
own peculiar logic. on reservations and in urban community
centres for the indigenous population. Often
the plays are written in indigenous languages
HEYWOOD, Thomas [1574 – 1641] as well as English and feature familiar ‘spirits’
English dramatist from native culture. The Rez Sisters, reminis-
cent of ‘MICHEL TREMBLAY’s Les Belles Soeurs,
PLAYS INCLUDE:
follows the adventures (and misadventures)
A Woman Killed with Kindness (1603), The
of seven Native women who leave their
Fair Maid of the West (pre-1610, published
reservation to go to Toronto in order to take
1630), The English Traveller (published 1633)
part in The Biggest Bingo Game in the World.
Heywood was a prolific writer and sometime Both funny and tragic, it portrays their lives
actor who claimed to have contributed to over with affection and sympathy, showing both
200 plays, of which some twenty survive. He the spirituality and the difficulty of life for
wrote in just about every genre and style contemporary Native people. Both this play,
available to him. Trevor Nunn created ‘a and its companion piece Dry Lips (about
comical/tragical adventure entertainment seven Native men and hockey) won the Dora
celebrating the birth of a nation’ out of the Mavor Moore Award for Best New Play of the
two parts of The Fair Maid of the West for the Year, one of the most prestigious awards in
RSC in 1986. A Woman Killed with Kindness, a Canada. Highway’s work is virtually unknown
realistic treatment of domestic strife in a on stage in Britain, despite some academic
bourgeois context, is particularly interesting interest, but both the plays mentioned here
for its husband who forgives his adulterous have been published.
wife and her lover rather than pursuing
revenge. Northern Broadsides revived it in
2003.
H Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:16 Page 151

HOCHHÜTH, Rolf 151

TRY THESE: Matura’s reworking of it as Playboy of the West


‘SOYINKA for a Nigerian playwright combining Indies) for one of the classic celebrations and
African and Western cultures; Jatinder Verma for interrogations of folk culture in drama;
one who synthesises Asian with Western culture; ‘WALCOTT as the pre-eminent Caribbean drama-
‘HORSFIELD ’s Red Devils Trilogy for ‘leaving the tist who also shares Hill’s concern for a rich
reservation’. theatrical language expressing Caribbean culture
as fully as possible; ‘BREUER ’s The Warrior Ant and
John Constable’s Black Mas for white writers’ treat-
HILL, Errol [1921 – ] ment of carnival; ‘CROSS ’s Blues for Railton and
Trinidadian dramatist and academic Mass Carib also celebrate pre-colonial, pre-
Christian Caribbean cultures in music.
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Brittle and the City Fathers (1948, later
known as Oily Portraits), Square Peg (1949), HOCHHÜTH, Rolf [1931 – ]
The Ping-Pong (radio 1950; staged 1953), German dramatist
Dilemma (1953), Broken Melody (1954),
PLAYS INCLUDE:
Wey-Wey (1957), Strictly Matrimony (1959),
The Representative (1963, The Deputy in the
Man Better Man (1960; originally 1957),
USA), Soldiers (1967), Guerrillas (1970), The
Dimanche Gras Carnival Show (1963),
Midwife (1972)
Whistling Charlie and the Monster (1964),
Dance Bongo (1965) Hochhüth spent some years as a reader with a
publishing firm, potentially a useful training
Hill is a major figure in the creation of a West for writing ‘documentary’ dramas. His inter-
Indian theatre through his work as writer, national success as a dramatist derived from
director, actor, editor of play anthologies, the controversial nature of his best-known
author of the standard work The Trinidad plays. The Representative showed Pope Pius
Carnival and academic (he has held posts in XII as failing to do anything to prevent the
the West Indies, Nigeria and the USA). His Holocaust because he was more concerned
aim, in his own words, has been ‘to treat about the spread of Communism and the
aspects of Caribbean folk life, drawing on state of the Church’s finances. It was filmed by
speech idioms and rhythms, music and dance, Constantin Costa-Gavras as Amen in 2002.
and to evolve a form of drama and theatre Soldiers deals with Churchill’s 1943 decision
most nearly representative of Caribbean life on saturation bombing of German cities, and
and art’. He draws on folklore associated with he is also accused of conniving at the assassi-
the calypso and carnival traditions in Man nation of the Polish leader Sikorski. An
Better Man, which he selected to represent attempt to put on Soldiers at the National
him in his own edition of three Caribbean Theatre in 1967 led to a burst of patriotic
plays (Plays for Today, Longman, 1985), with objection that did nothing for the positions of
its obeah man brought in to help a young either Olivier or Kenneth Tynan. Hochhüth
lover to win his bride in a duel with the village suffers from being unable to make up his
stick-fighting (‘calinda’) champion. The orig- mind whether the great moments of history
inal version was written in prose and had no are caused by individual decisions or by
music, but in its current form it uses calypso economic and social forces, though in
verse and music in a comic style that cele- Guerrillas he still seems to think that
brates aspects of folk culture that have American society could be changed by
survived despite colonial rule. disposing of a small number of industrialists.

TRY THESE: TRY THESE:


‘MATURA is a Trinidadian-born dramatist who Erwin Piscator for documentary theatre in the
shares many of Hill’s interests, particularly in carni- 1920s; Peter Brook’s US, Heinar Kipphardt’s In the
val in Play Mas and in folk culture in Meetings; Matter of J.Robert Oppenheimer (1964), ‘WEISS ’s
‘SYNGE ’s Playboy of the Western World (and The Investigation (1965) for documentary theatre
H Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:16 Page 152

152 HOLBOROUGH, Jacqueline


in the 1960s; ‘BRENTON ’s The Churchill Play for an Ulrike Meinhof for an extraordinary portrait of
equally controversial portrait of the statesman. woman as terrorist.

HOLBOROUGH, Jacqueline [1949 – ] HOLMAN, David


British dramatist British dramatist
PLAYS INCLUDE: PLAYS INCLUDE:
A Question of Habit (1979), Killers (1980), Drink the Mercury (1972), Adventure in the
Fallacies (1983), Decade (1984), The Garden Deep (1973), No Pasaran (1976), The
Girls (1985), The Sin Eaters (1986), Dreams Disappeared (1979), Big Cat, Big Coat (1980),
of San Francisco (1987), The Way South Peacemaker (1983), Susummu’s Story (1983),
(1989) 1983 (1983), No Worries (1984), Small
Poppies (1986), Solomon and the Big Cat
Holborough was an actress before she started
(1987), Whale (1989), O. U. T. Spells Out
writing out of her own experience – a short
(1996), The Tractor Girls (2002)
stay in Durham high-security prison, the
result of placing an ad in the paper and sub- Holman has been writing for stage, radio, film
sequently being charged for conspiracy. Her and opera for over thirty years. His work is
early plays were devised with Jenny Hicks and usually performed for or by children of all
members of the women prisoners company ages. His sympathy with children goes back to
Clean Break, which they co-founded. A his rather bleak childhood in Haringey, north
Question of Habit, Killers and The Sin Eaters London. Bullied at primary school, he says, as
deal with such subjects as lesbianism, mother ‘a weed in glasses’, he drew his main con-
and daughter relationships, terrorism and solation from books and awe-struck visits to
maximum-security wings. Holborough has a museums. His plays are consequently
very specific ‘tone’ – partly humorous, partly perceptive about loners, such as the
realistic, with a real capacity for creating Australian country-girl, moved to a city life
recognisably sympathetic, three-dimensional that renders her powerless in No Worries. But
characters. The Garden Girls showed the inter- they are also wider-ranging, energetic pieces
relationship between institution, class and put over with a stinging outrage at incidences
peer group in creating conflict in prison. It of injustice. Holman is not afraid to place
also challenged the idea of women criminals moral issues before his young audiences and
as hysterics and neurotics, showing their many of his plays explore environmental
imprisonment to be the penalty for retaliating questions. These include Drink the Mercury,
against ill treatment from men or infringing about the effects of heavy-metal pollution on
some social code of the way women ought to fishermen in Japan; Adventure in the Deep,
behave. Dreams of San Francisco is a whose subject is the despoliation of the ocean;
ferociously satiric comment on late 1980s Big Cat, Big Coat and Solomon and the Big
feminism’s capitulation to ‘Thatcherite’ Cat, which concern endangered species in
market forces. Holborough has gone on to Africa, and Whale, based on the real-life race
write extensively for British television. by Americans and Russians in 1988 to free
whales trapped under the ice in the Arctic,
TRY THESE: interwoven with an ancient Inuit (Eskimo)
‘BEHAN ’s The Quare Fellow, ‘TOM MCGRATH ’s myth.
The Hard Man, ‘PUIG ’s Kiss of the Spider Woman Other widely performed plays include No
for penal life; for the relationship between Pasaran, about a Jewish boxer in Nazi
women, mental illness and custodial treatments, Germany, The Disappeared, about victims of
‘CRAZE ’s Shona, ‘EDGAR ’s Mary Barnes, repression in Argentina, and three ‘peace’
‘MURRAY ’s Bodycell; ‘CHURCHILL ’s Top Girls and plays, Peacemaker, Susummu’s Story (about
Serious Money for other images of opportunism in Hiroshima and the atom bomb) and 1983
the Thatcher decade; ‘GEMS ’ Dusa, Fish, Stas and (written for various age ranges and all
Vi for women interacting; ‘FO and ‘RAME ’s presented by Theatre Centre) – which were
H Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:17 Page 153

HOME, William Douglas 153

attacked by certain members of the British through a surreal ecological fantasy, and
Tory government for their pacifism. In The Across Oka is concerned with global conser-
Tractor Girls he set two female Ipswich Town vation, focusing on the plight of the Siberian
supporters loose in Moscow to face the Crane. Bad Weather concerns the arrival of a
realities of modern Russia. figure from the past and how it affects a man
who escaped prison after a fracas at a Chinese
TRY THESE: restaurant. Holman remains an enigmatic
‘HIGHWAY ’s The Rez Sisters follows the journey of writer whose work has never quite achieved
some Native Canadians to the Big City; the success it deserves.
‘AYCKBOURN has written extensively for
children; ‘KESSELMAN ’s Becca, about a young girl TRY THESE:
who is shut up in a cupboard, uses fantasy and ‘FRAYN ’s Benefactors for English idealism; ‘PAGE
music to push the boundaries of children’s (especially Salonika) for often elliptical domestic
theatre; ‘CASDAGLI , ‘SHEPPHARD and ‘DAVID conflict; ‘DANIELS ’ Beside Herself also tackles the
WOOD are other British writers for children. long-term effects of child abuse, ‘WARD ’s Apart
from George confronts it indirectly;
‘BUTTERWORTH ’s The Night Heron, ‘TERRY
HOLMAN, Robert [1952 – ] JOHNSON for ecological and global worries.
British dramatist
PLAYS INCLUDE:
HOME, William Douglas [1912 – ]
Coal (1973), The Natural Cause (1974),
Outside the Whale (1976), German Skerries
British actor and dramatist
(1977), Mucking Out (1978), Other Worlds PLAYS INCLUDE:
(1983), Today (1984), The Overgrown Path Now Barabbas . . . (1947), The Chiltern
(1985), Making Noise Quietly (1986), Across Hundreds (1947, Yes M’Lord in the USA), The
Oka (1988), Rafts and Dreams (1990), Bad Thistle and the Rose (1949), The Reluctant
Weather (1998), Holes in the Skin (2003) Debutante (1955), Betzi (1964), The Queen’s
Highland Servant (1967), The Secretary Bird
Born in North Yorkshire, the son of a farm
(1967), Lloyd George Knew My Father (1972),
manager and a teacher, Holman moved to
The Dame of Sark (1974), The Kingfisher
London at nineteen and spent two and a half
(1977), After the Ball is Over (1985), Portraits
years working in the newsagents on
(1987), Christmas Truce (1989)
Paddington Station; perhaps his immersion
in the world gives his plays their peculiar real- An actor who appeared in many of his own
ism, but few writers chart human truths so plays, and whose experience shows in their
perceptively, particularly the truths that careful construction, Home was rejected by
accompany sudden intimacy. ‘I always think the ‘angries’ of the late 1950s as an irrelevant
you can hear silence’, a character comments in writer of upper-class and well-made plays.
his play The Overgrown Path, and that’s what How many of them knew of his court martial
Holman does: he keeps time with the human for refusing to take part in what he thought
dialogues that go unspoken but are, none- was a senseless attack on Le Havre in World
theless, felt. Outside the Whale is a fictional War II is open to conjecture. Although many
biography of George Orwell in the 1930s and, of his plays are set in the world of lords and
Today is a probing treatment of English debutantes, the plots are often developed
idealism in the same period. Making Noise from real life. The Chiltern Hundreds, for
Quietly is a trio of plays about relationships example, was suggested by the political
that flourish and flail under the strains of activities of his father’s butler, The Reluctant
gender and class. Written in a temperate, Peer was linked to his Prime Minister
considered mode, its title summed up what brother’s resignation of his title and After the
Holman had been doing: making noise Ball is Over juxtaposes a hunt ball with a bill
quietly – and invaluably. Rafts and Dreams to outlaw fox hunting. His subjects range
tackles the long-term damage of child abuse from a chronicle play of events leading to the
H Theatre Guide (1) NEW.qxp 2/4/07 16:17 Page 154

154 HOOD, Kevin


Battle of Flodden Field (The Thistle and the brought Hood serious attention: The
Rose) to Napoleon’s last love affair (Betzi), and Astronomer’s Garden. Charting rivalries both
marriage in Lloyd George Knew My Father and professional and sexual amongst the scientific
The Secretary Bird. His other biographical/ community at the Greenwich Observatory in
historical works included The Dame of Sark the eighteenth century, the play was likened to
(about the German occupation of the the film work of Peter Greenaway. Working as
Channel Islands in World War II), Portraits the Warehouse’s writer-in-residence, Hood
(about the painter August John) and The produced Sugar Hill Blues, an intricate tale,
Queen’s Highland Servant (about Queen partly set on board ship, of two couples,
Victoria and John Brown). He also wrote divided by class and race and brought
about the Christmas Truce in World War I. His together by jazz in the 1950s. The experiences
early play Now Barabbas . . . , a study of life in of prejudice and class among the four are
a prison, from the arrival of a condemned explored with an ironic commentary from a
murderer to his execution, plumbed much fifth, chorus-like character, Norman.
greater depths than his later work, including Although at times overflowing with ideas and
what was then a very daring treatment of a themes, Hood’s depiction of the power
homosexual friendship. relations between his characters is fascinating
Home writes about the people he knows and he displays a shrewd instinct for the use
but he is not a Tory propagandist – their of music on stage. However, Ian Shuttleworth
behaviour, prejudices and eccentricities are thought that So Special (Manchester Royal
the butt of his humorous observation, which Exchange) ‘never really escapes the furrow of
relies more upon elegant construction and what might be called “Royal Court by
skilful timing than dazzling wit. numbers”: deprived youth, urban squalor,
violence and the occasional bit of graphic
TRY THESE: grotesquerie’. Hood’s television work includes
‘SHERIDAN for similar comedies of an earlier episodes of The Bill, Eastenders, Grange Hill
time; ‘BEHAN ’s The Quare Fellow, ‘GENET , John and Silent Witness, as well as the adaptation of
Herbert’s Fortune and Men’s Eyes for death-cell Minette Walters’ The Echo.
dramas; ‘AYCKBOURN for acerbic treatment of
the middle and lower-middle classes; ‘COWARD TRY THESE:
for more bitter observation of the British ‘country ‘AUGUST WILSON ’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom for
house’ set; ‘COONEY and ‘TRAVERS for farce; another play with jazz as a major component;
‘PASCAL ’s Theresa for a less rosy view of the ‘STOPPARD for ‘over-cleverness’; ‘BALDWIN ’s The
occupation of the Channel Islands. Amen Corner for religious obsession; ‘DANIELS ’
The Devil’s Gateway for Greenham; race and ships
are treated rather differently in Heidi Thomas’s
HOOD, Kevin [1949 – ] Indigo; ‘GOOCH ’s Female Transport,
British dramatist ‘WERTENBAKER ’s Our Country’s Good for ships,
class and prejudice; ‘BOND for deprived youth at
PLAYS INCLUDE:
the Royal Court.
Beached (1987), The Astronomer’s Garden
(1988), Sugar Hill Blues (1990), Hammett’s
Apprentice (1993), So Special (1998)
HOPKINS, John [1931 – 98]
A che