B C D E
F G H I
J K L M
N O P Q
R S T U
V W X Y
One of the characteristic in-yer-face themes
of 1990s theatre. In keeping with the unideological
character of that decade, most plays which examine this issue feature
not only politically incorrect and often highly explicit scenes of abuse,
but also show the complicity of the victims with
Adelaide-bred Aussie (b 1969) who has spent his working life in London.
Leapt to fame with Clocks and Whistles (Bush, 1996),
one of the highlights of this venue's London Fragments season.
His insightful and subtle approach to everyday emotions and character
can also be seen in Grace Note (Old Vic, 1997),
part of Dominic Dromgoole's season at this grand,
old barn. Adamson's work also includes adaptations of Chekhov and Ibsen.
Flavour of the month, nay decade, at the National,
his metrosexual Southwark Fair (National, 2006)
was directed by supremo Nicholas Hytner.
He also adapted Spanish auteur Pedro Almadovar's 1999 film All About
My Mother (Old Vic, 2007).
The great survivor (b 1954). Feminist playwright who is also great fun,
Adshead emerged in the 1980s with hard-hitting plays such as Thatcher's
Women (Tricycle, 1987). Her Juicy Bits (Lyric, Hammersmith,
1998) was a memorable account of desire. More
recently, she's pioneered political plays that
mix wit with compassion, and critique with formal
innovation. She's a dreamer, eccentric and poet. Basically, she rocks:
check out The Bogus Woman (Bush,
2000), Animal (Soho, 2003),
Bites (Bush, 2005) and Bones
One of the best new writers to emerge from the Royal Court Young Writers'
Programme in the new millennium, she first came to notice with her thrilling
debut, Gone Too Far! (Royal Court, 2007).
This show started out at the Theatre Upstairs studio, before being restaged
in the main house. Her Detaining Justice (Tricycle, 2009)
was a powerful account of migration, and her Off the Endz
(Royal Court, 2010) an elegant story about
Super trendy north London theatre that stages both new plays and revivals
of classics, under the joint directorship of Jonathan Kent and Ian McDiarmid,
1990-2002. They introduced fashionable London audiences - you get jostled
by a better class of person here - to some obscure corners of the European
and American repertoire. In the 1990s, memorable examples of new(ish)
writing include Han Ong's The LA Plays (1993),
Phyllis Nagy's Butterfly Kiss (1994),
Louis Mellis and David Scinto's Gangster No 1 (1995),
Ellen McLaughlin's Tongue of the Bird (1997)
and Neil LaBute's Bash: Latterday Plays
(2000), The Shape of Things (2001)
and The Distance from Here (2002).
The Almeida really loves American playwrights. It has also pioneered the
vogue for movie stars to appear on the London stage, attracting names
such as Juliette Binoche, Claire Bloom, Jonny Lee Miller, and Gael Garcia
Bernal. Current head since 2002: Michael Attenborough.
One of the best Irish writers (b 1955) of the decade, whose plays - for
example, White Woman Street (Bush, 1992),
The Steward of Christendom (Royal Court, 1995)
and Our Lady of Sligo (Out of Joint, 1998)
- are award-winning classics. Barry has successfully mined his family
history for material which he has dramatised to great effect. His more
overtly political play, Hinterland (Out of Joint, 2002),
was a lot less successful. Barry has also translated Lorca. His Whistling
Psyche (Almeida, 2004), starring Claire
Bloom and Kathryn Hunter, was extremely wordy, a reminder perhaps of his
parallel career as a novelist.
One of the most exciting new voices (b 1980) to emerge in the late 2000s,
Bartlett has been lucky enough to attract ace directors who have given
his excellent plays the innovative stagings they deserve. For example,
his debut, My Child (Royal Court, 2007),
was set in a claustrophobic tunnel which was half tube train and half
trendy bar. More recently, his Artefacts (Bush, 2008)
saw the stage turned into a theatre-in-the-round, and his Contractions
(Royal Court, 2008) was staged in an upstairs
office space. His latest, Cock (Royal Court, 2009),
was given an experimental production, directed by James Macdonald.
A son of Hull (b 1956), the prolific Bean's trademark at first was
gritty work plays (with loads of hairy male casts) - Toast (Royal
Court, 1999) and Under the Whaleback
(Royal Court, 2003) - but he also excelled
in politically incorrect black comedy: The Mentalists (National,
2002), The God Botherers (Bush, 2003)
and Honeymoon Suite (Royal Court, 2004).
Added to that, the versatile Bean also wrote state-of-the nation comedies
such as Mr England (Sheffield, 2000)
and Smack Family Robinson (Live, 2003).
His Harvest (Royal Court, 2005) was
an ambitious and superbly entertaining comic epic. A founder-member of
the Monsterists, he was involved in the Monster
Day Out. Recent work includes the disappointing In the Club (Hampstead,
2007) and the wonderful The English Game
(Headlong, 2008). Bean's typically acerbic
humour and epic vision characterised his England People Very Nice
(National, 2009), one of the most controversial
plays of the year. He is Brit theatre's agent provocateur.
Bent's succinct and economical style, coupled with his careful use of
ambiguity, have led to him being labelled a Bondist, with his Accomplices
(Sheffield, 2000) being directly compared
to Edward Bond's Saved. Bent's other works - including Bad Company
(Bush, 1994), Goldhawk Road, Sugar,
Sugar, The Associate (National, 2002)
and The Country of the Blind (Gate, 2002)
- all demonstrate these qualities, as well as a striking humanity. He
has also developed as a prime adaptor of novels and books. His stage version
of A Prayer for Owen Meaney (National, 2002),
was followed by the Scandinavian novel Elling (2007),
which was a big hit for the Bush, and transferred
to the West End. He then wrote the stage version of Prick Up Your
Ears (Comedy, 2009). Nice.
Bhatti worked as a journalist, refuge worker and actress before turning
to writing. Her debut Behsharam (Shameless) broke box office records
at the Birmingham Rep and Soho theatres in 2001.
Her 2004 follow-up, Behzti (Dishonour)
at Birmingham Rep was the biggest new writing
cause celebre since Sarah Kane's Blasted.
Militant action by local Sikhs, reportedly offended by its portrayal of
sexual corruption inside a temple, forced its early closure. Bhatti also
writes for Westway on radio and EastEnders on tv. Long may
Liverpool-bred playwright. Family tensions and the power of the past run
through much of Blakeman's output. Her early work includes Caravan
(Bush, 1997) and Normal (Bush, 2000).
More recently, The Morris (Everyman, Liverpool, 2005)
had the unusual subject of female Morris dancers.
A key play of the 1990s, Sarah
Kane's debut, Blasted, opened at the Royal
Court in January 1995. Raw in style, horrific in content and experimental
in form, it gave critics apoplexy and received
some of the worst reviews of the decade. Blinded by its scenes of horror,
most critics failed to see that what was really disturbing was the play's
radical structure, in which a first half set in Leeds hotel suddenly explodes
into a war zone in the second half. Defended by writers such as Harold
Pinter, Caryl Churchill, Edward Bond and Martin
Crimp, Blasted soon found its rightful place in the canon of
contemporary drama. But not without a fight.
London writer (b 1966) whose smart plays, with their ping-pong dialogue,
never neglect the emotional undercurrents that bounce between their characters.
Good examples are Not a Game for Boys (Royal Court, 1995),
Chimps (Hampstead, 1997), A Place
at the Table (Bush, 2000) and the less
successful Hand in Hand (Hampstead, 2002).
He also took part in The Chain Play (2001),
where different authors contributed a scene to a one-off performance,
part of the National Theatre's 25th anniversary
Great guy: big, hairy and Falstaffian. Founder of the alternative
Hull Truck theatre company in 1971, and artistic director of the Bush
theatre between 1996 and 2007. Over the years, he has directed more than
30 shows at that venue, his spiritual home. Passionate advocate of new
plays, and massive storyteller. The Naked Talent season (Bush,
2004) demonstrated his commitment to provocative,
but entertaining, new writing. Also: he has his
moments of vision. Plus: check out his
book. After retiring from the Bush, he wrote
his autobiography, The Reluctant Escapologist: Adventures in Alternative
Theatre (Nick Hern, 2010), a really thrilling and informative
read. Get it!
Although the young writers of the 1990s were
often seen as a group, they were in no sense a movement. The best metaphor
to describe their relationships to each other is that of a network or
Artistic director of the Traverse, Edinburgh,
between 1988 and 1996, who based his policy on two strands: developing
Scottish work with Scottish actors, and finding the best international
new writers. Staged fine plays by Scottish writers such as David
Greig and David Harrower as well as memorable
American imports. Since 2002, he has been artistic director of the West
Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds.
turned writer, Buffini (b 1965) first attracted attention when she co-wrote
(with Anna Reynolds) and performed Jordan in 1992.
Since then, her versatility - and love of allegory - can be seen in plays
as diverse as Blavatsky's Tower (1997),
Gabriel (Soho, 1997), Silence
(Birmingham Rep, 1999, toured in 2002,
revived by RSC in 2005),
Loveplay (RSC, 2001) and Dinner
(National, 2002, and West End, 2003).
In April 2005 Buffini contributed to Greenwich Theatre's mini-season of
political works, aimed at combating voter apathy before the general election.
As a founder member of the Monsterists, she advocates
big, imaginative plays rather than naturalistic soap opera dramas.
Scottish writer (b 1968) who shot to fame with his first play, Gagarin
Way (Traverse, 2001), whose sizzling,
high-octane linguistic brilliance amazed all who saw it, and won a whole
clutch of awards. His follow up, The Straits (Traverse, 2003),
looked at four Gibraltar teenagers during the Falklands War of 1982, and
provided a powerful metaphor for Britain's role in the War on Terror.
His On Tour (Royal Court/Liverpool, 2005)
was fast, furious and funny, and his Black Watch (Traverse, 2006)
looks set to be one of the definitive plays about the Iraq War and soldiering.
Pub theatre in west London that helped kick-start the explosion of new
writing in the 1990s when Dominic
Dromgoole, the new artistic director, started putting on an eclectic
mix of young playwrights, from Billy Roche to Philip
Ridley. Memorable productions in this claustrophobic 100-seat venue
include Trainspotting, Tracy
Letts's Killer Joe, David Eldridge's
Serving It Up and Richard Zajdlic's Dogs
Barking. Dromgoole's successor, Mike Bradwell,
has staged equally cutting-edge work, including Mark
O'Rowe's Howie the Rookie. The Bush was refurbished in October
2000 and now stages new writing in all its splendid
variety. Since 2007, its new artistic director has been Josie Rourke.
Controversially, she wants to run a new-writing theatre without a literary
Sheffield born and bred, Butler (b 1974) had his first play, Made of
Stone (2000), put on as part of the Royal
Court's Young Writers fest and instantly
won an award for Most Promising Playwright. His subsequent plays, Redundant
(Royal Court, 2001) and Lucky Dog (Royal
Court, 2004), have also been widely praised
for their gritty documentary realism and attention to detail. He's master
of the slow burn and of emotional bleakness. Now works as tutor on the
Court's Young Writers Programme, and his latest plays include I'll
Be the Devil (RSC, 2008) and Faces
in the Crowd (Royal Court, 2008).
Butterworth is an often reclusive playwright (b 1969) whose exhilarating
first play, Mojo (Royal Court, 1995),
had a huge impact,
and soon became a contemporary classic. Then Butterworth disappeared into
filmland, making - among other projects - a disappointing version of this
stage debut. In 2001, he co-wrote (with brother Tom Butterworth) and directed
The Birthday Girl, which starred Nicole Kidman and Ben Chaplin.
At the Royal Court, Butterworth made great theatrical comebacks with The
Night Heron (2002) and The Winterling
(2006): lovely writing. Really. He then made
yet another comeback in 2009, with the excellent
Parlour Song (Almeida) and the state-of-the-nation pastoral
Jerusalem (Royal Court). His trademark is the exploration
of the male psyche in plays which are structured around the tension between
what happens onstage and what happens offstage. His humour is wicked,
and his eccentric characters unforgettable.
Doncaster bard. Poet of post-industrial South Yorks. Specialises in
tender and hilarious accounts of northern working-class life. His lyrical
vision embraces tough women and violent men. Graduating from the National
Student Drama Festival in the 1980s, Cameron had his Can't Stand Up
for Falling Down staged in Edinburgh, then at the Hampstead in 1990.
Six of his plays have been staged by the Bush:
Pond Life (1992), Not Fade Away
(1993), The Mortal Ash (1994), All
of You Mine (1996), The Glee Club
(2002) and the deliciously hilarious Gong
Donkeys (2004). He also won the first
Dennis Potter Award for Stone Sissors Paper (BBC, 1995).
Master of the poetic realist style, Irish-born Carr (b 1964) is not
an easy writer but her work, characterised by emotional fierceness and
allusions to classical tragedy, can be remarkably rewarding. A regular
at the Abbey, Dublin, her plays include Low in the Dark (Project
Arts Centre, Dublin, 1989), The Mai (Peacock, Dublin, 1994),
Portia Coughlan (Peacock, Dublin, 1996),
By the Bog of Cats (Abbey, 1998) and
On Raftery's Hill (Druid/Royal Court, 2000).
Her recent work includes Ariel (2002)
and Meat and Salt (2003), written for 8-12-year-olds. Carr's By
the Bog of Cats was staged in the West End (Wyndhams, 2004),
with Holly Hunter playing the lead. Her Woman and Scarecrow (Royal
Court, 2006) was fearsomely brill.
British theatre's greatest living writer (b 1938). Okay? Is that clear
enough? Churchill seems to reinvent herself, and theatre form,
in every play. She is responsible for top world classics such as Cloud
Nine (1979), Top Girls (1982) and Serious Money (1987).
Mixing acute political insight with theatrical experiment, her plays are
always both intellectually and dramatically thrilling. Worked creatively
with Max Stafford-Clark. Her list of successes
is dauntingly long, so look it up yourselves! In the 1990s,
The Skriker (National, 1994) was a
wild fantasy that seemed to equate femininity with the irrational; Blue
Heart (Out of Joint, 1997) was an audacious
experiment with lingo; Far Away (Royal Court, 2000)
a visionery account of global war and ecological apocalypse; A Number
(Royal Court, 2002) a profound meditation
on genetic engineering. Her controversial short play, Seven Jewish
Children (Royal Court, 2009) was
written as a response to the Israeli incursions into Gaza and provoked
hysteria from pro-Israelis. Such arseholes! Whatever she does, it's a
Written by Patrick Marber, Closer is arguably
the key 1990s play about personal relations.
First put on at the National in May 1997,
it was hugely successful, influencing dozens of writers by its frankness
of tone, its rush for the explosive punchline and its excoriating honesty
about emotions. For a moment, it lit up the sex war
with a garish light. As one critic put it, of the many four-letter words,
'love is undoubtedly the most brutal'. In 2004, Closer was adapted
into a film, directed by Mike Nichols - although well received, much of
the original's dark humour failed to translate from stage to screen. And
the film's ending was a cop-out.
It's clear from 1990s drama that all is not rosy in the capitalist garden.
One of the key themes of the decade was a profound scepticism about consumer
culture, as evidenced by plays such as Mark Ravenhill's
Shopping and Fucking or David
Greig's The Architect. The strength
of this current of anti-consumerism gives the lie to the legend that political
theatre is dead and that young playwrights are non-political.
Artistic director of the Royal Court theatre
since 2007, where he has successfully rejuvenated the venue. His policy
of developing the best new playwrights, instead of running after every
novelty, distinguishes him from many on the new writing
scene. Has championed Bola Agbaje, Polly
Stenham and Anupama Chandrasekhar. Before taking up this post, Cooke
(b 1966) was an associate at the RSC, where his
directing credits included a fine revival of Arthur Miller's The
Crucible. At the Court, he has also directed Vassily Sigarev's
Plasticine, Leo Butler's Redundant and
Michael Wynne's The People Are Friendly.
Craig is a versatile writer (b 1972) whose trademark is the well-plotted
issue play that, at its very end, leaves audiences hanging in the air.
His early work includes Happy Savages (Lyric, Hammersmith, 1998)
and he learn much of his craft by writing for television and radio. In
2005, his Broken Road won a Fringe
First in Edinburgh and What We Did to Weinstein (Menier) got the
Peggy Ramsay Award. His latest is The Glass Room (Hampstead, 2006).
Founder member of the Monsterists.
Although slightly older (b 1956) than most of the new writers of the 1990s,
Crimp has been highly influential both as a playwright and as a translator.
He made his mark on the decade with daring and innovative
drama, especially The Treatment (Royal Court, 1993)
and Attempts on Her Life (Royal Court, 1997),
arguably the most exciting new play of the past 25 years. With a back
catalogue which includes the much revived Dealing with Clair (Orange
Tree, 1988), he's also a firm fav with students. His The Country
(Royal Court, 2000), Face to the Wall
(Royal Court, 2002) and Fewer Emergencies
(Royal Court, 2005) prove that his originality
and power remain undiminished. And, as his exciting adaptations of Moliere,
Marivaux and Koltes show, he's a cracking translator. His Cruel and
Tender (Young Vic, 2004), adapted from
Sophocles's The Women of Trachis, shows that you can talk about
terrorism without resorting to verbatim theatre. The City (Royal
Court, 2008) was a compendium of his obsessions,
and showed him at his playful best.
Artistic director of the Royal Court theatre
from 1992 to 1998. Before that, his biggest success was an Expressionist
staging of An Inspector Calls (National,
1992). At the Court, his conversion to the policy of staging as many new
writers as possible led to the 1994-95 season,
which saw the debuts of Joe Penhall, Judy
Upton, Nick Grosso and Sarah
Kane. Daldry's fundraising flair and showmanship helped make provocative
subjects and an in-yer-face style the staples
of the Court's studio theatre. His tastes defined his theatre's public
image. After he was succeeded by Ian Rickson
in 1998, Daldry went on to direct the hit film Billy Elliot (1999)
and the Oscar-nominated The Hours (2003), etc. He has also directed
recent plays by Caryl Churchill and Billy
Elliot the Musical (Victoria Palace, 2005).
Writer and stand-up who specialises in fraught but hilarious comedy:
who says you can't laugh in the face of tragedy? Classics include Easy
Access (for the Boys), Why Is John Lennon Wearing a Skirt?
and Adult Child/Dead Child. An irrepressible guide through the
darkness and light of sexual identity.
Artistic director of the Bush theatre between
1990 and 1996. Claims credit for kick-starting the boom in 1990s
new writing by staging an eclectic mix of plays,
which included Billy Roche's Wexford trilogy (1991)
and Jonathan Harvey's Beautiful Thing
(1993). His version of events is published
in The Bush Theatre Book, edited by
his successor Mike Bradwell. After leaving the
Bush, he was briefly New Plays Director at the Old Vic, before going on
to run the Oxford Stage Company and then Shakespeare's Globe, London,
from 2006. His book, The
Full Room, is a smartly written but highly controversial round
up of new writers.
Having made his debut at the age of 22 with a stonking drama called Serving
It Up (Bush, 1996), Eldridge (b 1973)
soon mellowed into a writer whose trademarks are empathy, social observation
and truthful dialogue. Summer Begins (National/Donmar, 1997)
and Falling (Hampstead, 1999) are perfect accounts of the hopes
and anxieties of daily life, while his 2000
Royal Court play, Under the Blue Sky,
demonstrates his wicked sense of humour and confident use of innovative
form. In 2004, he
produced a cracking version of Festen (Almeida, and West End) and
another moving account of family life, M.A.D. (Bush). In 2005,
Eldridge continued to use the family as a focal point for his work, and
experimented in writing from a subjective point of view, in Incomplete
and Random Acts of Kindness (Royal Court). Active member of the Monsterists:
in 2006, his Market Boy was an outstanding
Monster success on the National's huge Olivier
stage. He's also a fine adapter of Ibsen.
Loveable cheeky chappie (b 1959) who caught the essence of the debate
about screen violence, and dramatised it in Popcorn
(Nottingham, 1996). If at times Elton falls
prey to the same soundbite values he criticises, his play remains one
of the liveliest - and funniest - accounts of the way Hollywood exploits
violence for profit. He has since moved on to musicals, writing the words
for The Lion King (Lyceum, 1999) and
We Will Rock You (Dominion, 2002).
Imagine his royalties cheque.
Describes the kind of drama, usually put on in studio spaces, that aims
to give audiences the experience of actually
having lived through the actions depicted on stage. (But not literally!)
Instead of allowing spectators to just sit back and contemplate the play,
experiential theatre grabs its audiences and forces them to confront the
reality of the feelings shown to them. Yes, it's in-yer-face,
and it's here to stay (well, more or less).
Onetime artistic director of London's tiny Gate Theatre (1995-98),
and the man who commissioned Sarah Kane's second
play, he is also a playwright who mixes great plotting, farcical comedy
and emotional bleakness. His Elton John's Glasses (Watford, 1997)
was a joyful comedy about football fandom, failure and the trials of masculinity.
It started life as Neville Southall's Washbag at the Finborough
in 1992, and ended up briefly in the West End. His The Danny Crowe
Show (Bush, 2001) is a ferociously funny
and satisfyingly savage satire on celebrity culture. Other work includes
Night of the Soul (RSC, 2002), Crime
and Punishment in Dalston (Arcola, 2001)
and The UN Inspector (National, 2005),
an adaptation of Gogol's The Government Inspector. Farr was (joint)
artistic director of the Bristol Old Vic (2002-05)
and then head of the Lyric, Hammersmith (2005-08).
Now directs for the RSC.
Tiny pub theatre in London's Earl's Court, the Finborough has nevertheless
played a vital part, especially under the direction of Phil
Willmott, in the explosion of creativity in British theatre in the
1990s. It was here that Max
Stafford-Clark first glimpsed the potential of Mark
Ravenhill. The pub and theatre got a facelift in 2003, and the theatre
is now run by Neil McPherson, who loves plays about war, plague and famine.
In 2005, he celebrated the venue's 25th anniversary.
Actress turned playwright, Fitch is one of the Bush
theatre's most exciting discoveries. Her debut, Adrenalin... Heart
(Bush, 2002), not only wowed West London audiences
but also had a gob-stinging effect in Japan, where it toured. It was also
revived at the Bush.
Her follow-up was the delicious I Like Mine with a Kiss (Bush,
While some of the characteristics of in-yer-face
theatre are obvious - bad language, sexual explicitness and overt
violence - it is worth noting that some of the
best 1990s playwrights were most concerned with
the form, or structure, of their work. Indeed, the holy grail of new
writing is plays that are both distinctive in voice and exciting in
form. Good examples of innovative form include Sarah Kane's Blasted,
Phyllis Nagy's The Strip, Rebecca
Prichard's Essex Girls and Martin Crimp's
Attempts on Her Life. And that's just from the 1990s. Oh, and make
sure you check out anything by Caryl Churchill.
that physical theatre can't be cutting edge? Frantic - now led by Scott
Graham and Steven Hoggett - mix techno beat, bouncy dancing and, at their
best, some ace writing. Hits include the cult Generation Trilogy
(1995-98), Michael Wynne's
Sell Out (1998), Chris O'Connell's
Hymns (1999), Nicola McCartney's Underworld
(2001), Abi Morgan's Tiny Dynamite (2001),
Isabel Wright's Peepshow (2002) and
Glyn Cannon's On Blindness (2004).
Also contributed to the movement work in Gregory
Burke's exquisite The Straits, Mark Ravenhill's
lovely Pool (No Water), and many others.
American writer (b 1964) who brings a fierce intelligence to big issues
such as racism - Spinning into Butter (Goodman, Chicago, 1999)
- sexism - Boy Gets Girl (Goodman, Chicago, 2000) - and cultural
envy - The Sweetest Swing in Baseball (Royal Court, 2004),
which starred Gillian Anderson. On the negative side, her writing tends
to be a little too well mannered for its own good. In Britain, Gilman's
work has been promoted by the Royal Court: all
of the above, plus The Glory of Living (Royal Court, 1999).
Her recent plays include Bill of (W)Rights (Mixed Blood, 2004).
Hailed - with pardonable exaggeration - as the new Sarah
Kane, Tucker Green arrived with a bang in 2003
with dirty butterfly (Soho), which she quickly followed up with
born bad (Hampstead, 2003). Her style
is a mix of in-yer-face directness with a freefloating
poetry and an experimental attitude to form.
Her Stoning Mary (Royal Court, 2005)
is a real masterpiece and her Random (Royal Court, 2008)
was very impressive.
Prolific Scottish playwright (b 1969), who has constantly innovated and
experimented in his choice of subject matter and form.
His key tropes are guilty men abroad and the notion of borderlands where
nothing is quite like it seems. Plays include Europe (Traverse,
1994), The Architect
(Traverse, 1996), Caledonia Dreaming
(7:84, 1997), The Speculator (Edinburgh,
1999), The Cosmonaut's Last Message to
the Woman He Once Loved in the Former Soviet Union (Paines Plough,
1999, revived at the Donmar in 2005), Victoria
(RSC, 1999) and Outlying Islands (Traverse,
2002). In 1990, he also founded, with Graham
Eatough, Suspect Culture, whose Mainstream (1999)
is one of the most evocative plays of that decade. Their Casanova
(2001) is a masterpiece, and 8000m
(Tramway, 2004) was equally well received.
Greig's prolific output has continued with Caligula (Donmar, 2003),
When the Bulbul Stopped Singing (Traverse, 2004)
and The American Pilot (RSC, 2005).
His Pyrenees (Paines Plough, 2005) and Damascus
(Traverse, 2007) are two of my personal favs.
And (I know) I've missed several out.
Laddish playwright (b 1968) who emerged at the Royal Court theatre in
1994 with his cracking debut, Peaches.
Follow-ups include Sweetheart (Royal Court, 1996),
Real Classy Affair (Royal Court, 1998)
and the seriously surreal Kosher Harry (Royal Court, 2002).
Writes superb dialogue and is a master of the subtext, but deliberately
refuses to end on a dramatic climax and so the last scenes of his plays
are a bit of a comedown. Made a cracking comeback to the stage with the
high-powered Ingredient X (Royal Court, 2010).
British Bengali (b 1965) whose award-winning plays are written in a mix
of realism and lyrical imagination. After working on Grange Hill
and EastEnders, she explored her Asian-British heritage: Voices
on the Wind (National, 1995), A River Sutra (National, 1997)
and The Waiting Room (National, 2000). But her recent work - Sanctuary
(National, 2002), Inside Out (Clean
Break, 2002) and Fragile Land (Hampstead,
2003) - is more concerned with contemporary issues. Gupta has written
lots of original plays as well as adapting Wycherley's The Country
Wife (Watford, 2004), Brecht's The Good Woman of Setzuan (National,
2001) and Brighouse's Hobson's Choice (Young Vic, 2003). Her recent
work includes the campaigning Gladiator Games (Birmingham Rep,
2005), White Boy (Soho, 2007) and the
enormously successful Sugar Mummies (Royal Court, 2006).
NB: It's an insult to pigeonhole Gupta as an Asian writer - she's a playwright
full stop! In 2008, she was awarded an MBE.
Geordie writer (b 1966), whose Billy Elliot and Spoonface
Steinberg (1999) have made him world famous. His style is rude, funny,
robust, popular but also profound. Often seeing the world through the
eyes of the victimised, his plays - which have often been put on by Max
Roberts's Live theatre - include Wittgenstein
on Tyne (1997), Cooking with Elvis (1998)
and Bollocks (1998). He has also successfully adapted Brecht, Goldoni,
Collodi's Pinocchio and Heijermans's The Good Hope (National,
2001). 2005 has seen Hall working at the Bristol Old Vic, where his Child
of the Snow and Two's Company were well received. His film
adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley, came
out in 2005. Returning to Billy Elliot territory in 2008 with The
Pitmen Painters (Live), he had yet another hit.
Known for its loyalty to its playwrights, the Hampstead theatre was
run by artistic director Jenny Topper until
2003. Recent examples of its role in promoting new
writing include plays by Philip Ridley, Jonathan
Harvey, David Eldridge, Shelagh
Stephenson and Judith Thompson. It also hosted plays such as Brad
Fraser's Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love,
which were first seen at the Traverse in Edinburgh.
Topper favoured well-made plays whose ideas come garbed in humour, and
supervised the move into a new building. Her successor is Tony
Clark, who has staged the work of older playwrights such as Clare
McIntyre, Hanif Kureishi and Stephen Lowe, as well as upcoming new talents
such as Dennis Kelly and Ryan
Craig. In 2009, the venue celebrated its 50th anniversary: not bad
going for a fringe theatre.
A zoologist who trained as a theatre director, Harris's By Many
Wounds (Hampstead, 1999) introduced audiences to her talent for language
and emotional truth. Further Than the Furthest Thing (Tron, Glasgow
and National, 2000) - her amazing play about
Tristan da Cunha - was a wow and has been revived more than once. Her
Nightingale and Chase (Royal Court, 2001)
was an effective chamber piece. Harris's Midwinter (2004) was part
of the RSC's new writing season, and has been
revived at the Soho (2005). Her Solstice (RSC, 2005), a kind of
prequel to Midwinter, was less well received.
Scottish playwright (b 1966), whose sublime debut, Knives in Hens
(Traverse, 1995), was in its confident use
of language one of the most original plays of the past decade. Also wrote
Kill the Old Torture Their Young (Traverse, 1998)
and Presence (Royal Court, 2001), The
Girl On The Sofa (Royal Lyceum, 2002),
Purple (Traverse, 2003) and Dark
Earth (Traverse, 2003). He has also translated
Pirandello's Six Characters Looking for an Author (Young Vic, 2001)
and Buchner's Woyzeck (Royal Lyceum, 2001). In 2005 Knives in
Hens was revived at The Tron, Glasgow.
Liverpudlian playwright (b 1968). His Beautiful Thing (Bush, 1993)
was a landmark play which looked at the lives of gay teenagers on a council
estate with great humour and lack of preachiness. When the play transferred
to the West End a year later, it was denounced by the London Evening
Standard as part of 'a plague of pink plays'. Other work, which usually
features a mix of funny one-liners and wry observation (often with the
pervading theme of death), includes Babies (Royal Court, 1994),
Rupert Street Lonely Hearts Club (Contact, Manchester, 1995),
Hushabye Mountain (Hampstead, 1999)
and Out in the Open (Hampstead/Birmingham Rep, 2001),
Closer to Heaven (Arts, 2001) and Taking
Charlie (Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, 2004).
Harvey also writes for the TV series Gimme, Gimme, Gimme and Coronation
Street. Etc. His epic Canary (Liverpool/Hampstead,
2010) marked his return to the stage.
I Licked a Slag's Deodorant
Perhaps the most evocative play title in a decade
of evocative play titles. Jim Cartwright's short, sharp shock of a play
- about the odd relationship between a repressed Man and a frantic Slag
- opened at the Royal Court theatre in November
One of the outstanding characteristics of the new theatre of the 1990s
has been is lack of overt ideology. Unlike the state-of-the-nation writers
of the 1970s or the feminist writers of the 1980s, the latest new
wave has focused less on big political statements
and more on the politics of everyday life. Shaking off ideology and political
correctness liberated young writers in the 1990s.
Commonly used description - by critics and practitioners
alike - of the more extreme and cutting edge plays
of the 1990s. Take it or leave it.
Sex and violence on the contemporary stage is
sometimes called 'neo-Jacobeanism', an allusion to the blood and guts
approach of Jacobean writers such as John Webster (1570-1625), Cyril Tourneur
(1570-1626) and Thomas Middleton (1580-1627): 'When the bad bleed, then
is the tragedy good.' But take care with this label: it suggests that
playwrights are looking back, when it might be worth stressing the fact
that they are also facing forward.
The master (b 1955) of the fictional meeting play and of the humorous
scintillating best includes Hysteria (Royal Court, 1993),
Dead Funny (Hampstead, 1994), Hitchcock
Blonde (Royal Court, 2003) and Piano/Forte
(Royal Court, 2006). However, only the most
desperate aficionados love his tribute to Carry-On movies, Cleo, Camping,
Emmanuel and Dick (National, 1998), or
his hit West End version of The Graduate (2000).
His Insignificance (Royal Court, 1982) was made into a cult film
by Nicholas Roeg in 1985. Get the DVD.
Black Country lad. Actor turned writer, whose Noise (Soho Theatre
Company, 1997) woke people up to his particular
brand of in-yer-face intensity. Other work includes
Mickey and Me (New Birmingham Theatre) and News of the World
(Watermill, Newbury, 1997). His Mr And Mrs Schultz (Warehouse,
Croydon, 2004) saw him apply his trademark intensity to the Holocaust.
turned writer. Mixing witty jokes with emotional truth, Jones's style
is one of gutsy realism laced with affectionate loopiness. Her first play,
the beautifully quirky Airswimming (1997),
opened at the Battersea Arts Centre and was broadcast on Radio 4. In
Flame (1999) transferred to the West End
after starting at the Bush theatre, and Martha, Josie and the Chinese
Elvis (1999) premiered at the Bolton Octagon.
Fab. Her award-winning, and much-revived masterpiece, Humble
Boy (2001), was a hit for the National,
and her more recent work includes The Dark (Donmar, 2004)
and The Lightning Play (Almeida, 2006).
She also wrote, whisper it quietly, the words for Andrew Lloyd Webber's
The Woman in White (2004).
Quintessential 1990s writer (b 1971) whose debut,
Blasted, set off a massive controversy which
put the new theatrical sensibility on the map. Not only did Kane produce
a body of work which constantly challenged the restraints of form,
but she also worked hard at teaching other writers. Her plays, Blasted
(Royal Court, 1995), Phaedra's Love
(Gate, 1996), Cleansed (Royal Court,
1998), Crave (Paines Plough, 1998)
and 4.48 Psychosis (Royal Court, 2000)
are among the best written in a decade crammed
with great writing. In her short career, she also made a handful of wonderfully
perceptive comments on new
writing. Kane committed suicide in February 1999.
Cockney dreamer and agent provocateur (b 1970).
Kelly burst onto the new writing scene with the
vividly imaginative Debris (Latchmere, 2003)
and his follow-up, Osama the Hero (Hampstead, 2005)
was a storming in-yer-face shocker, and so was
After the End at the Traverse. In 2007,
his Love and Money (Young Vic) demonstrated his talent for experimenting
with form while Taking Care of Baby (Hampstead)
confirmed his ability to mix theatrical intelligence with artistic daring.
His messy but exciting epic, The Gods Weep (RSC, 2010),
starred Jeremy Irons. Kelly is a great storyteller, and it's an edgy experience
to watch him write himself into a corner, and then out again. And again.
Multi-award-winning experimental playwright (b 1976) whose interest in
fresh ideas and politics have made him an outstanding new arrival on the
new writing scene. Protection (Soho,
2003), about social workers, was followed by Unstated (Red
Room, 2008), about asylum-seekers. Plays for
teens include East End Tales (Half Moon, 2004),
Locked In (Half Moon, 2006), a hip-hop
drama, and Mehndi Night (Mulberry, 2007).
His How To Disappear Completely and Never Be Found (Sheffield,
2007) is a real masterpiece.
Actor turned writer (b 1961), whose debut East Is East (Tamasha/
Birmingham/ Royal Court, 1996) was a huge
theatrical success, and was later made into a successful film. However,
his follow up, Last Dance at Dum Dum (New Ambassadors, 1999),
was markedly less convincing. Recent work includes the affecting Notes
on Falling Leaves (Royal Court, 2004)
and the family comedy Rafta, Rafta (National, 2007).
He also works a lot in film.
Actor, singer and king-size media personality, Kwame (b 1967) is a tri-cultural
self-made guy who branched out into writing and became one of the most
powerful chroniclers of the Black British experience with his super trilogy:
Elmina's Kitchen (National, 2003),
Fix Up (National, 2004) and Statement
of Regret (National, 2007). Long live
the play of ideas! He has also written plays with music, such as Blues
Brother, Soul Sister (2001), and
other dramas such as Let There Be Love (Tricycle, 2008)
and Seize the Day (Tricycle, 2009).
Yes, he's an ideas man who delights in human singularity and specialises
in punchy one-liners.
Controversial American playwright (b 1963) who has earned the title
of theatre's Mr Nasty because of the sheer emotional intensity and agonising
explicitness of some of his work. Once a Mormon, now a theatre-maker,
novelist and film director, some of his prolific output has been outstanding.
Ace films include In the Company of Men (1997) and Your Friends
& Neighbors (1998). Theatre plays are headed up by Bash: Latter-Day
Plays (Almeida, 2000), The Shape of
Things (Almeida, 2001), The Distance
from Here (Almeida, 2002), The Mercy
Seat (Almeida, 2003), This Is How It
Goes (Donmar, 2005), Some Girl(s)
(Gielgud, 2005) and Fat Pig (Trafalgar
British playwright (b 1947) who excels in a whole range of genres.
Her long and impressive list of plays starts with Helen and Her Friends
(1978), and carries on up to today. Go on, google her! In the 1990s, she
wrote Wicked (1990), Kitchen Matters (1990), Flight
(1991), the award-winning Her Aching Heart (1992), Nothing Compares
to You (1995) and Ophelia (1996). She has also written tons
for radio. And... she has written (help) several plays for the National
Theatre's youth Connections season. Finally, her Frozen
(1998) is a classic about serial killers,
remorse and redemption, while A Wedding Story (Birmingham, 2000)
is a hilarious mix of pain and pleasure. Her most recent play (well, one
of them!) is Stockholm (Plymouth, 2007).
Great stuff. Check her out.
Born (1968) in Plymouth, Lenkiewicz is a former actor, and table-dancer,
whose plays wryly explore various aspects of the female experience now
and in the past. Her work includes Soho: A Tale of Table Dancers,
which won a Fringe First at the Edinburgh Festival in 2001
(Lenkiewicz played Stella). Next came The Night Season (National,
2004) and Shoreditch Madonna (Soho,
2005). Recently, Her Naked Skin, a
history play about the suffragettes, was widely hailed for being the first
new play by a woman to be staged in the National's
massive Olivier space. Some audience members found its scene of forced
feeding simply too in-yer-face.
Former actor (b 1965) with the Steppenwolf Company in Chicago, Letts developed
a form of 'kick ass theatre' which excited audiences with its powerful
violence and explicit sexuality. His Killer Joe (Traverse,
1994) is a classic account of the brutalising
effects of the culture of violence on a family
of 'trailer trash' Americans. Rumours of his bad behaviour have yet to
be denied: what a guy! Also wrote Bug (Gate, London, 1996),
which has subsequently been adapted for the big screen, with Ashley Judd
(2006). Other work includes Man from Nebraska, Superior Donuts
and the multi-award-winning epic family drama, August: Osage County
Newcastle upon Tyne's answer to the Royal Court,
Live Theatre is that rare beast: a specialist new
writing theatre outside London. The company - originally founded on
Tyneside in 1973 by Geoff Gillham, Val McLane and Tim Healy - has a strong
regional identity and has been based on the Quayside since 1982, expanding
over the years to become an arts complex, which reopened after a £5.5
million refurbishment in September 2007. Modest, but dynamic, the 200-seat
venue has thrived under artistic director Max Roberts, enjoying relationships
with writers such as Peter Flannery, Lee Hall,
Alan Plater and Peter Straughan. Its partnership with the RSC
has resulted in plays touring nationally. In 2003, it won the Peggy Ramsey
Award for the best new writing company in the country.
New Play Festival
Set up by Phil Setren, the London New Play
Festival started in 1989 and, despite having to be run on a shoestring,
has staged the early work of ace writers such as Biyi Bandele, Joe
Penhall, Mark Ravenhill, Judy
Upton, and Naomi Wallace. Great stuff. Great
guy. Shame the fest is now defunct.
After a career in stand up comedy and television - the BBC's The Day
Today and Knowing Me, Knowing You (with Alan Partridge) - Marber
(b 1964) wrote and directed two of the finest plays of the decade: Dealer's
Choice (National, 1995) and Closer
(National, 1997), with the latter becoming
an almost legendary event, discussed in countless newspaper columns. In
2004, Closer was adapted into a film. Marber's next original play
Howard Katz (National, 2001) was less
successful than his adaptations of Strindberg, After Miss Julie
(Donmar, 2003), and Moliere, Don Juan in Soho (Donmar, 2006). Marber
also wrote The Musicians (National, 2004) and the excellent screenplay
for the film Notes on a Scandal (2006).
One of the key themes of today's theatre has been
the crisis of blokedom: as well as the 1990s fad for boys plays - from
Mojo to Not a
Game for Boys, and from Peaches
to Our Boys - masculinity and its discontents has featured in many
plays about abusive males, impotent fathers and confused youngsters. This
idea could run and run. (And, indeed it has!)
The writer as meteor: now you see him, now you don't. Born (b 1970) in
south London of Irish parents. Shot to instant success in 1996 with The
Beauty Queen of Leenane, quickly followed up by the rest of the Leenane
trilogy (A Skull in Connemara and The Lonesome West).
Next sighted at the National with The Cripple
of Inishmaan. He then disappeared into the world of film, only to
reappear with the equally triumphant The Lieutenant of Inishmore
(RSC, 2001) and the gobsmackingly brilliant
The Pillowman (National, 2003). Writes
with a stunning mix of wild hilarity and incisive intelligence. One recurring
theme is the way that childhood injustice results in adult vengefulness.
His recent film, In Bruges (2008), which he wrote and
directed, was something of a triumph.
One of the most original, and successful, playwrights of recent years,
Irish-bred McPherson (b 1971) developed a recognisable style consisting
mainly of monologue narratives: see This Lime Tree Bower (Crypt,
Dublin, 1995) and St Nicholas (Bush,
1997). His gentle, yet deeply redemptive,
play The Weir (Royal Court, 1997) transferred
to the West End and its highly successful run helped bail out the Royal
Court when money was short. When the theatre reopened its refurbished
Sloane Square building in 2000, McPherson's
Dublin Carol was its first mainstage offering. In 2001,
his Port Authority (New Ambassadors) wowed his fans. Recent work
includes Come On Over (Gate, Dublin, 2004) and a haunting pair
of dramas, Shining City (Royal Court, 2004)
and The Seafarer (National, 2006).
Belfast-bred writer (b 1965) who specialises in thrilling plots and revealing
anatomies of the Loyalist mindset. In 1995, he became the first Protestant
to win the prestigious Stewart Parker award for his play Independent
Voice. His cracking dramas include In a Little World of Our Own
(1998), As the Beast Sleeps (1998), Trust (1999),
The Force of Change (2000) and Loyal
Women (Royal Court, 2003). In December
2005, he was attacked by rogue Loyalist paramilitaries.
Powerfully written play about a gang of motormouthing crims by Jez
Butterworth, its Royal Court debut, directed
by Ian Rickson, in July 1995
was hyped as the first time since John Osborne's Look
Back in Anger that a first play had leapt straight onto the main
stage. A classic 'lads play', it put its stamp
on a whole genre. Sadly, few critics realised its debt to Philip
Ridley's The Pitchfork Disney. More sadly, the film version
only exposed its faulty plot.
A group of writers who originally met during Trevor Nunn's valedictory
Transformations season at the National
Practitioners such as Richard Bean,
Ryan Craig, Sarah Woods, Colin Teevan, Simon
Bowen, Moira Buffini, David
Eldridge, Tanika Gupta, Jonathan Lewis and
Roy Williams issued the Monsterist manifesto
'to promote new writing of large-scale work in
the British theatre'. They want to see new work that is large in theme
and large in ambition on the largest stages in Britain - good luck guys.
of quirk, whose tv work has brought fame at the cost of some loss of personality
in her writing. She worked closely with Paines Plough,
producing for them Splendour (Traverse, 2000)
and the brilliantly observed and theatrically stunning Tiny Dynamite
(Traverse, 2001). Morgan's work is structurally
clever, with lots of lovely formal and linguistic creativity. Her other
work includes Sleeping Around (Donmar, 1998)
- co-written with Mark Ravenhill, Hilary Fanning
and Stephen Greenhorn - Fast Food (Royal Exchange, Manchester,
1999) and Tender (Birmingham Rep/Hampstead Theatre, 2001). Her
Sex Traffic (C4) was an effective two-part television drama, starring
Discovered by the 2002 Royal Court Young
Writers fest, Moss (b 1976) comes from Liverpool and her work is characterised
by an eloquence that imbues beautifully observed everyday situations with
both touching and tragic qualities. Plays include A Day in Dull Armour
(Royal Court, 2002), How Love Is Spelt (Bush, 2004)
and Christmas Is Miles Away (Royal Exchange, Manchester, 2005).
Her Clean Break play, This Wide Night (2008) won awards
American writer (b 1962) who made London her home and produced a succession
of highly imaginative, innovative and ironic dramas. If you don't know
her work, check out Weldon Rising (1992),
Butterfly Kiss (Almeida, 1994), Trip's
Cinch (1994), The Strip (Royal Court, 1995)
and Never Land (Royal Court, 1998).
Read also her wonderfully provocative essay in David Edgar's collection,
State of Play. Sadly, we've lost her to Hollywood.
Although the National is not strictly a
new writing theatre, it has staged some fine
examples of the genre, especialy in its smallest Cottesloe theatre (it
has two other stages, the big Lyttelton and the giant Olivier). Literary
managers include Jack Bradley and Christopher Campbell. Also, its secret
weapon, the National Theatre Studio, has helped playwrights develop their
work through offering spaces in which to write, contacts with other playwrights
and staged readings. Often, playwrights who have enjoyed the facilities
of the Studio go on to have their work staged at one of the specialist
new writing theatres. Since Nicholas Hytner
became artistic director of the National, its new writing record has improved,
although too many new works are boring history plays.
Theatre of Scotland
Set up in 2003, the National Theatre of Scotland
is the only new major cultural institution established north of the border
since devolution. Without the bother of running a separate building, it
is a body that commissions and produces new work, which is then staged
at established venues, and sometimes in found spaces. Run by artistic
director Vicky Featherstone and literary manager John Tiffany (both formerly
Paines Plough), it has had amazing successes
with work such as Anthony Neilson's The Wonderful
World of Dissocia (2007) and Gregory
Burke's Black Watch (2006). Really
hot, hot, hot.
Scottish playwright (b 1967) whose narrowly focused but extremely powerful
plays - Normal (Pleasance, Edinburgh, 1991),
Penetrator (Traverse, 1993)
and The Censor (Finborough, 1997) -
are great examples of experiential drama. In
Penetrator, Neilson wrote some of the most brutally explicit sexual
fantasy as well as staging one of the tensest fight scenes ever. His immense
theatrical verve is exemplified in the gobsmacking Stitching (Traverse,
2002) and he finally arrived on the main stage
of the Royal Court in 2002 with The Lying
Kind, his black comedy about truth-telling. Some of Neilson's subsequent
work has been more absurdist in temper, including Edward Gant's Amazing
Feats of Loneliness (Plymouth, 2002),
Twisted (Theatre Workshop, 2003) and,
most remarkably, The Wonderful World of Dissocia (Royal Lyceum,
Edinburgh, 2004). It is worth noting that
his rehearsal methods value devised work, and that they aim to bring a
blast of fresh - emotionally truthful and physically alive - acting to
the stage: for sensation freaks, this is good news. Recent plays include
Realism (Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, 2006),
God in Ruins (RSC, 2007) and the chilling
Relocated (Royal Court, 2008).
Although all playwrights (yes, even Shakespeare) start off as unknown
new writers, the term New Writing usually refers
to all those young British writers who emerged in successive new waves
in the wake of John Osborne's Look
Back in Anger at the Royal Court in 1956.
Genre godfather: George Devine. Each
new wave reinvented theatrical language, and New
Writing (in capital letters) can be defined as plays by young
writers put on by subsidised theatres. These plays are usually contemporary
in language, urgent in theme and preferably
(although not always by any means) experimental in form.
Normally, New Writing does not include history plays, nor adaptations
of novels or films. Nor boring soaps written in plain televisual language.
What aficionados look for is evidence of an individual writer's personal
voice. A unique and distinctive language. The term New Writing also has
several agendas: it implies that the writer is at the centre of the theatrical
process, but leaves unresolved the question of exactly when new writers
become old hands. It also assumes the existence of state-subsidised New
Writing theatres, in which the literary manager is a key figure.
Once onstage nudity was a symbol of sexual liberation; more recently,
it has been seen as a troubling sign of abuse
Award-winning Dublin-based writer (b 1970) best known for his thrilling
third play, Howie the Rookie (Bush, 1999),
'a white-knuckle ride through a nightmare Dublin'. A huge hit. His Crestfall
(Gate, Dublin, 2003; 503, 2007) was criticised
for its lack of humour, but who cares? It's a simply dazzling piece of
multiple narration, glowing with imagination and linguistic brilliance.
Set up by former Royal Court artistic director
Max Stafford-Clark and Sonia Friedman in 1993,
Out of Joint is a touring company which has specialised in producing cutting
edge-drama, as well as occasionally pairing a classic with a new play.
Successes include Sue Townsend's The Queen and I (1994), Sebastian
Barry's The Steward of Christendom (1995),
Mark Ravenhill's Shopping and Fucking
(1996), Simon Bennett's Drummers (1999)
and Rita, Sue and Bob Too/A State Affair (2000).
More recently, Stafford-Clark has pioneered the revival of verbatim theatre,
especially with The Permanent Way (2003)
and Talking to Terrorists (2005).
Welsh drama's rising star, his work is both hard-hitting and imaginative,
often mixing grit with a great heart. In fact, one of the great things
about it is that it's not very Welsh (if you see what I mean: it's bigger
than that). His Crazy Gary's Mobile Disco (Chapter, Cardiff, 2001)
was a sizzling debut, followed by The Shadow of a Boy (National,
2002), and The Drowned World (Traverse,
Screamingly in-yer-face writer who started
out as an actor, and now deals out hilarity like a paedophile giving out
sweets to kids. His debut Card Boys (Bush, 1999)
was an unforgetable night, dizzy, dizzy. And his follow-ups, A Carpet,
a Pony and a Monkey (Bush, 2002) and tHe
dYsFUnCKshOnaIZ! (Bush, 2007) were also
a screeeam. Well, I do love sensation on stage, don't I? Not for the fainthearted.
Formed in 1974, this new writing company has
been in the forefront of the recent explosion of talent. Led by director
Vicky Featherstone, it played a vital role as an advocate of new writing
in the mid-1990s, when Mark
Ravenhill was literary manager and Sarah Kane
ran the Wild Lunch workshops. Helped develop the work of writers such
as Parv Bancil, David Greig, Linda McLean and
Abi Morgan. John Tiffany, former literary manager
of the Traverse, joined in 2001. And, yes, everyone
hates the company's name, which comes from the pub in which the company's
founders were drinking when they first hit on the idea. New artistic director
Roxanna Silbert took over in 2005, following the controversial and inspiring
This Other England season. As well as promoting new talents such
as Dennis Kelly, she has also staged Mark
Ravenhill's epic play cycle, Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat (2008).
Ace writer (b 1967) who has made the theme of mental illness his own with
two excellent plays, Some Voices (Royal Court, 1994)
and the superb Blue/Orange (2000).
A keen observer of everyday life, two of his other plays - Love and
Understanding (Bush, 1997) and The
Bullet (Donmar, 1998) - were implicit
criticisms of the idea that new writing has to
be about sex and violence. Later, Penhall's Dumb
Show (Royal Court, 2004) was a critical
look at the relationship between celebrity and the tabloid press. Look
out for his typical motif: two brothers in struggle. As in, for example,
his thrilling Landscape with Weapon (National, 2007).
Oh, and he also writes great screenplays...
The death of political theatre had been prematurely announced on several
occasions during the 1990s. What really happened is that when many young
writers abandoned the heavily ideological and
cumbersome state-of-the-nation plays, they focused their political feelings
on more private scenarios, without any dilution
of their anger or their radicalism. Since 9/11, politics have made a terrific
comeback with a spate of vivid satires and verbatim pieces. Massive.
Whether their authors know it or not, many plays of the 1990s
have been touched by a distinct postmodern sensibility, which involves
contemporary ideas that privilege discourses, surfaces, irony, denial
of closure and such like over the more traditional theories about aesthetics
and value. At its worst, postmodernism implies that 'anything goes'; at
its best, it encourages productive mixes of high and low culture, experiments
in theatrical form and a sense of playful irony
that is as intelligent as it is amusing. Still, a new ethical theatre
practice (which originates in early modernism)
needs something that pomo can't provide. What could that be?
Playwright (b 1981). First came to notice with her one-act play, Liquid,
at the 2002 National Student Drama Festival. Followed up with her beautifully
written, award-winning debut, The Sugar Syndrome (Royal
Court, 2003). Then she disappeared into telly-land,
scripting, among other things, Secret Diary of a Call Girl,
which starred Billie Piper. Her reappearance in theatre was the superb
Enron (Headlong/Royal Court, 2009),
one of the most succesful plays of the decade.
Writer (b 1971) who tackled gritty subjects, but always paid attention
to the emotional relationships between her characters. Her first play,
Essex Girls (Royal Court, 1994), was
as much an experiment in form as an account of
teenage pregnancy. In Fair Game (Royal Court, 1997),
she adapted Edna Mazya's Games in the Backyard, and in Yard
Gal, her 1998 play for Clean Break theatre company, she produced
one of the decade's best plays about girl gangs.
A more cutting edge label than 'gay', 'queer' stands for the idea of the
homosexual as sexual outlaw and is often preferred to gay, which suggests
assimilation into mainstream society. In recent years, queer has itself
become a style label - and some gays prefer the more ironic 'postgay'.
A distinct queer sensibility can be glimpsed in plays by writers such
as Brad Fraser and Mark Ravenhill, but their work
should not be reduced to the sexuality of their authors.
Author of Shopping and Fucking (Royal
Court, 1996) and one of the quintessential
writers of the 1990s (b 1966). Ironic in tone, controversial in stage
imagery and constantly questioning of social mores, Ravenhill's plays
include Faust Is Dead (ATC, 1997),
Handbag (ATC, 1998) and Some Explicit
Polaroids (Out of Joint, 1999). Don't
you just love those titles? His big-stage Mother Clap's Molly House
(National, 2001) restates his characteristic
obsessions: sexual sensationalism, cultural politics and gobby irony.
In the 2000s, Ravenhill became an iconic figure on the new
writing scene, helping younger writers and penning provocative journalistic
pieces. He is also one of the most generous individuals you could hope
to meet. He has written two plays for teenagers - Totally Over You
(National, 2003) and Citizenship (National,
2005) - and his dystopic The Cut (Donmar,
2006) starred Sir Ian McKellen. Product
(Traverse, 2005) was his acting debut and
was followed by Pool (No Water) (Plymouth Drum, 2006).
Both were strongly influenced by the work of Martin
Crimp. As was his amazingly ambitious epic play cycle, Shoot/Get
Treasure/Repeat (Paines Plough, 2008).
Born in 1963, Rickson was artistic director of the Royal
Court from 1998 to 2006.
Under his predecessor Stephen Daldry, he made
his name by directing the work of Joe Penhall,
Jez Butterworth and Conor
McPherson. During his own tenure, he took an eclectic approach, mixing
work from Royal Court old hands, such as Caryl Churchill,
David Hare and Timberlake Wertenbaker, with new plays from Roy
Williams, Laura Wade, Richard
Bean and, of course, McPherson and Butterworth. In the teeth of controversy,
Rickson also produced Tom Stoppard's Rock 'n' Roll, and,
to great acclaim, directed Harold Pinter in Beckett's Krapp's
Last Tape, before finally saying goodbye with Chekhov's The
Seagull, a show that moved successfully to Broadway.
Poet Prince of London's East End. One of the most imaginative, innovative
and visionary writers (b 1964) in British theatre, Philip Ridley's three
plays - The Pitchfork Disney (Bush,
1991), The Fastest Clock in the Universe
(Hampstead, 1992) and Ghost from a Perfect
Place (Hampstead, 1994) - showed what
could be done by mixing fantasy with real emotional undercurrents. Prolific
output includes films, novels and young people's plays. Vincent River
opened at the Hampstead in 2000, and recent
work includes his brilliant shocker Mercury Fur (Paines
Plough, 2005) and the superb Leaves
of Glass (Soho, 2007). The last two were
parts of an informal trilogy of work about brotherly love, which culminates
in Piranah Heights (Soho, 2008). Repeated
revivals of his work confirm the excellence of Ridley's theatrical vision.
Hey, this guy really rocks.
Leader of the powerhouse theatres that specialise in new
writing, with its two spaces, a main stage and the Theatre Upstairs
studio. The proud legacy of George Devine,
its first artistic director. Reinvented itself in the early 1990s under
its artistic director Stephen Daldry, who championed
new writers such as Sarah Kane, Mark
Ravenhill, Jez Butterworth and dozens of
others. The West End success of Conor McPherson's
The Weir helped bail it out financially. Next headed by director
Ian Rickson, who led the company back to
its refurbished Sloane Square building in February 2000.
Specialises in high-definition, cutting-edge productions. Champion. New
artistic director Dominic Cooke took over in 2007, and soon gave this
iconic institution a noticeable overhaul - and a much-needed injection
Shakespeare Company (RSC)
The Royal Shakespeare Company stages New Work at both its Stratford-upon-Avon
home and at various locations in London (after the company abandoned its
permanent base at the Barbican in 2002). Its
original remit, under Peter Hall, in the 1960s was to stage both Renaissance
and contemporary plays. Its Peter Brook
Theatre of Cruelty season, inspired by Artaud,
is now legendary. The main resource that the RSC could provide was a large
cast and large stage, something of a luxury for new
writing. Although, in the 1990s, the RSC
relied very heavily on just one playwright, the American Richard Nelson,
it never entirely abandoned its interest in New Writing. When Michael
Boyd took over as artistic director from Adrian Noble in 2003, this part
of the company's mission got a renewed boost, and several younger playwrights
have been encouraged to write new plays as responses to the work of Shakespeare.
Boyd appointed Dominic Cooke, and literary managers such as Paul Sirett
and Jeanie O'Hare, to promote ambitious new work. Playwrights who have
benefited include Zinnie Harris, Joanna Laurens,
Anthony Neilson, Leo Butler
and Roy Williams.
Sex and sexuality
Well, what can I say? Best to stay silent.
American playwright (b 1975) who produces some of the most thoughtful
and engagingly slow-burning work to appear on British stages. His trademark
subtlety can be seen in Other People (Royal Court, 2000),
The Coming World (Soho, 2001), Where
Do We Live (Royal Court, 2002) and Dying
City (Royal Court, 2006).
A key play of the 1990s, Mark Ravenhill's Shopping
and Fucking attracted attention partly because of its provocative
title and partly because of the desperation of its stage images. A controversial
critique of consumer society, its cool ironic
tone contrasted sharply with the horror of its vision of urban
Originally set up in 1972 as the Soho Poly, which devoted itself to new
writing in the following two decades, the Soho Theatre Company began
the 1990s at the Cockpit Theatre, then in March 2000 moved into a new
building in Dean Street, in London's Soho. Led by Abigail
Morris, who pioneered the short, no-interval drama, its memorable
plays include Diane Samuels's much-revived Kindertransport (1993),
Jonathan Lewis's Our Boys (1993), Daniel
Magee's Paddywack (1994) and Alex
Jones's Noise (1997). Recent hits
include Shan Khan's Office and Gurpreet Bhatti's
Shameless. New artistic director Lisa Goldman began in 2007, and
redefined the theatre's remit, focusing especially on political drama
and international work.
Stafford-Clark pioneered the workshop method in the 1970s with Joint Stock
theatre company and writers such as Caryl Churchill
and, later, Timberlake Wertenbaker. Longest ever artistic director of
the Royal Court theatre (1979-93), he then set
up Out of Joint theatre company and directed
the work of new writers such as Mark Ravenhill
and Simon Bennett as well as older hands such as April de Angelis and
Sebastian Barry. He also developed verbatim theatre
shows such as David Hare's The Permanent Way (2003)
and Robin Soans's Talking to Terrorists (2005).
Playwright (b 1987). Made her storming debut with That Face
(Royal Court, 2007) and then developed her
characteristic voice, viscerally punky, hilariously dirty and thrillingly
fierce in its emotions, in her follow-up, Tusk Tusk (Royal
Stockport-raised Stephens (b 1971) writes precisely and lyrically about
hope, honesty and humour, as well as brutality and despair. Although his
work seems to be part of the great British tradition of naturalism, actually
it's more in the style of poetic realism. In Stephens's work, a cool British
noir sensibility meets a warmly redemptive humanism. Check out Herons
(Royal Court, 2001), Port (Manchester,
2002), One Minute (Actors Touring Company,
2003) and Christmas (Bush, 2004).
Or Country Music (Royal Court, 2004)
and On the Shore of the Wide World (Manchester, 2005).
After that, his Motortown (Royal Court, 2006),
memorably directed by Ramin Gray, was a storming success. His latest work
includes Harper Regan (National, 2008) and Pornography
(Birmingham, 2008). As well as being a writer, Stephens has also had a
proper job: he was tutor on the Royal Court Young
Writers Programme for five years before becoming the National's
first ever Writer in Residence in 2005.
writer who mixes dark themes - usually about death - with comic dialogue.
The laugh offers a relief from the bleakness, and counterpoints it perfectly.
A typical quote from her: "We're all so obsessed with sex
and it's so boring. It's so twentieth century. Death is the new sex."
Her super award-winning debut, A Memory of Water (Hampstead, 1996),
was followed by An Experiment with an Air Pump (Manchester, 1997),
Ancient Lights (Hampstead, 2000), Five
Kinds of Silence (Lyric Hammersmith, 2000),
Mappa Mundi (National, 2002), Enlightenment
(Abbey, 2005) and The Long Road (Soho,
2008). She also writes for radio, television
Theatre Royal Stratford East
Aka Stratford East. Home of the legendary Joan Littlewood in the 1950s
and 1960s, this community theatre was first a rival of the Royal
Court, and then was run for 25 years by Philip Hedley. Hosts black
and Asian groups, and has an especially lively audience. Good for modern
musical theatre; ditto for radical populism; less good at cutting edge
new writing. In 2004, the new artistic director,
Kerry Michael, took over.
Formerly the Latchmere, and before that the Grace, this is the London
fringe's foremost new writing venue. With no funding, an intrepid bunch
of volunteers have made their contribution to creativity and innovation.
Given a boost by Paul Higgins in 2002, and now led by Paul Robinson and
Tim Roseman (since 2006), this is a brave and exciting venue.
Master of the bruising encounter. Responsible for Stacy (Arcola,
2007), one of the most excruciating plays
(in the best possible sense) of the new millennium. Before that, he came
up with the similarly intense When You Cure Me (Bush, 2006).
After, he continued his career with 2nd May 1997 (Nabokov/Bush,
2009), over which hovered the blushing angel
Seminal book about the splendours and miseries of drug addiction by Irvine
Welsh. First published in 1993, Trainspotting gave its name
to a whole generation. (The title comes from a
scene in which the book's young heroes are hanging around the disused
Leith station, where a tramp asks them ironically if they're trainspotting.)
Trainspotting was adapted for the stage by Harry Gibson, and first
put on at the Glasgow Mayfest in 1994. It
was then revived time after time, becoming one of the most successful
plays of the 1990s.
Powerhouse of new drama in Edinburgh. Yes! After twenty-five years in
Grassmarket, the Traverse moved to a new building in Cambridge Street
in July 1992. Under artistic director Ian Brown,
it imported and staged some of the most daring and excoriating plays of
the early 1990s, including Tracy Letts's Killer
Joe (1993), Simon Donald's The Life
of Stuff (1992), and Brad Fraser's Unidentified
Human Remains and the True Nature of Love (1992).
Many confrontational plays that arrived in London
were first seen in Scotland. Brown's successors, Philip Howard (since
1996) and Dominic Hill (since 2008), have sought to balance local talent
with the best new plays from abroad, including
Community theatre run by Nicolas Kent. Hosts black, Asian and Irish
groups. Before the recent vogue for verbatim drama, Kent pioneered documentary
theatre based on reconstructions of public enquiries, such as that into
the death of black teenager Stephen Lawrence (The Colour of Justice,
1999). Other examples of this kind of tribunal
theatre include the West End hit Guantanamo: 'Honor Bound To Defend
Freedom' and Justifying War: Scenes from the Hutton Inquiry
(both 2003). Occasionally also stages cutting-edge
One of the brat pack of new writers introduced
by Stephen Daldry's 1994-95
season at the Royal Court. Upton is a prolific
writer (b ????), and - to list just a brief selection of her work - her
Ashes and Sand (Royal Court, 1994),
Bruises (Royal Court, 1995), The
Girlz (Orange Tree, 1998) and Confidence
(Birmingham, 1998) established her as a gutsy
and vivid new voice. Oddly enough, her impassioned Ashes and Sand,
a play about a girl gang, didn't attract the media outrage that welcomed
Sarah Kane's Blasted.
Oh well. Anyway, her writing has great clarity and documentary power.
Despite its unlikely premiss, Sliding with Suzanne (Out of Joint,
2001) is her best yet.
While many plays in the 1970s and 1980s tended to show victims of political
or personal persecution as innocent but powerless
victims, recent drama has discovered a more complex way of representing
those at the receiving end of violence. Often
the victims are in some way complicit with their victimisers, who in turn
are usually seen as victims themselves.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of in-yer-face
theatre is its preoccupation with and ability to stage acts of violence,
whether they are random acts of urban crime or more personal assaults
and abuse. In the hot confines of experiential
theatre, the effect can been deeply disturbing.
Wade was brought up in Sheffield (b 1977), and specialises in showing
the problems of communication, the effect of emotional stress on the body
and the bafflement caused by technology. Her writing is very precise and
she has a clear understanding of structure. In one year, she made her
debut with two plays running simultaneously in London: Colder Than
Here (Soho, 2005) and Breathing Corpses
(Royal Court, 2005). Both pieces took death
as a central theme, but were more about the difficulties of talking. Other
Hands (Soho, 2006) shows her at her very
Gentle giant, actor, director and writer (b 1968: hence the name), Walker's
debut, Been So Long (Royal Court, 1998),
was characterised by a brilliant use of language and a confident command
of the confusions of desire and love. Early in his career, I remember
being at a reading of his work: the small audience went wild, drunk on
the deliciously lush words. His fantastically hilarious follow up, Flesh
Wound (Royal Court, 2003), took a while,
but was worth the wait. In the same year, Walker was awarded the George
Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright (bit late!). His recent
work includes translations (Akos Nemeth) and directing (Amy Evans'
Achidi J's Final Hours (Finborough, 2004)), plus the enormously
popular The Frontline (Globe, 2008-09).
Now mixes funky music with his bouncing lines...
Kentucky-raised Wallace (b 1960) came to Britain and soon established
herself as a poetic playwright who is both committed politically and fascinated
by experiments with form. Her many plays include
The War Boys (Finborough, 1993), In
the Heart of America (Bush, 1995), One
Flea Spare (Bush, 1995), Slaughter
City (RSC, 1996), The Trestle at Pope
Lick Creek (Traverse, 2001) and The
Inland Sea (2002). Lovely titles. Much
of Wallace's recent political work has been been on the fringe in the
wake of 9/11, including The Retreating World (Theatre 503, 2003),
Two Into War (Theatre 503, 2003) and
the critically acclaimed A State of Innocence (Theatre 503, 2005).
One of the most original and imaginative writers (b 1967) to have been
spat out of Ireland in the 1990s.
With his visions of dysfunctional families and enclosed worlds, few can
challenge his position as the Irish bard of homely claustrophobia. Walsh
World has been described as an uneasy mix of solitary kids, damaged parents
and twisted feelings. Yes. His plays, especially Disco Pigs (1997)
and Bedbound (2000), are frantic and
furious, written with an astonishing energy that makes them exciting examples
of experiential theatre. Walsh's other work includes
Chatroom (2005) - for Connections at
the National - and The Small Things (Paines
Plough/Menier, 2005). He specialises in inarticulate
characters who struggle to find a language with which to express themselves.
His masterpiece, The Walworth Farce (Druid, 2006),
is a stunning work of wild imagining. Whoaaaa. And don't forget Misterman
(1999) and The New Electric Ballroom
Novelist (b 1958) whose iconic Trainspotting
was adapted by Harry Gibson into a classic text of in-yer-face
theatre. Despite Welsh's evident relish for staging sex
and violence, his other plays, Headstate (Boilerhouse, 1994)
and You'll Have Had Your Hole (West Yorkshire Playhouse, 1998)
were markedly less successful. A one-hit wonder.
Top writer (b 1968) for exploring the tensions between black and white
youth. His trademark is sizzling dialogue and a streetwise ear for cultural
conflict. In general, his writing is characterised by a willingness to
say the unsayable, and by its keynote complexity. Sometimes his work is
a tad didactic, but it's always worth seeing, and his prolific output
includes: The No-Boys Cricket Club (Stratford
East, 1996), The Gift (Birmingham,
2000), Lift Off (Royal Court, 1999),
Clubland (Royal Court, 2001), Sing
Yer Heart Out for the Lads (National, 2002)
and Fallout (Royal Court, 2003). Williams's
recent work has been praised for its power as well as for its sensitive
and sympathetic characterisation. Believe. And he's so productive! Latest
work includes Joe Guy (Soho, 2007),
Category B (2009), as well
as a television version of Fallout (2008).
In 2008, he was awarded an OBE.
Artistic director, during the 1990s, of the tiny Finborough
theatre in London's Earl's Court. Helped the new writing boom by telling
writers they were free to use their imaginations and by mounting large-scale
plays in a tiny space.
Because her work is not staged in London, Woods has been unfairly ignored
by metropolitan critics. Check out her plays for Birmingham Rep: Nervous
Women, Bidding and Binding, and especially Trips (1999).
She has also written extensively for radio. Supporter of the Monsterists.
Woods's new work includes Soap (Scarborough, 2004)
and Through the Woods (Chichester, 2004).
Spirited and humorous Liverpudlian writer, whose The Knocky (1994)
was part of the explosion of creativity at the Royal
Court in the mid-1990s. Also worth checking out is his The Boy
Who Left Home (Actors Touring Company, 2000),
an adult fairy tale, and his hilarious comedy The People Are Friendly
(Royal Court, 2002). Wynne's Dirty Wonderland
(Brighton, 2005) was a critically lauded site-specific
piece energetically staged by Frantic Assembly.
A bit naff as a label, but still routinely used to describe Thatcher's
Children - or any other generation that happened to be born after about
1970, growing up in the 1980s. Vague, eh? Suggests a post-ideological
attitude, in which ideas about leftwing and rightwing, east and west,
are superseded by a 'post' mentality: postmodernism,
post-political, post-feminism, post-colonial,
even post-gay. On the negative side, it suggests the casual attitude to
drugs, death and decay typical of recent American blank fiction. On the
positive side, it describes a generation that is both 'can do' and 'do
Often written as 'yoof'. Ugh. One of the significance results of the emergence
of in-yer-face theatre in the 1990s was that it
brought stage drama into synch with youth culture, thus attracting new
audiences and new interest in the theatre. Health
warning: youth can also be a curse, and the cult of youthfulness can result
in an obsession with novelty at the cost of quality.
Essex-bred writer, one of twins (b 1962). The great thing about having
a surname beginning with Z is that you always get a place in an A-Z. Not
that anyone needs an excuse to include the writer who created the second
series of This Life, the cult BBC soap, and sizzling plays such
as Infidelities (Tabard, 1990), Dogs
Barking (Bush, 1999) and Cannibal
(Union, 2001). Nice titles.
Trendy word for spirit of the times, which just
means 'all the stuff that's going on today'. Pretension alert: use sparingly.
see also this new writing bibliography