Caryl Churchill

British writer of stage plays known for her use of non-realistic techniques and feminist themes. She is acknowledged as a major playwright in the English language, and a leading woman writer.

Caryl Churchill was born in London, England on 3 September, 1938. During WW2 her family emigrated to Montreal,Canada. She returned to England to attend university, and graduated from Oxford University in 1960 with a degree in English Literature. She also began her career there, writing three plays for performance by student drama groups: Downstairs, You've No Need to be Frightened, and Having a Wonderful Time.

In 1961 she married David Harter, a lawyer also from Oxford, and began raising three sons. She also began to write short radio plays for the BBC including The Ants (1962), Not, Not, Not, Not Enough Oxygen (1971), and Schreber's Nervous Illness (1972).

Churchill wrote Owners, her first stage play, in 1972. Churchill's basic socialist views are very apparent in the play, which is a critique of the values that most capitalists take for granted: being aggressive, getting ahead, doing well. She served as resident dramatist at the Royal Court Theatre from 1974-75, and later began collaboration with theatre companies such as Joint Stock and Monstrous Regiment (a feminist theatre union) which utilized an extended workshop period in their development of new plays. Churchill continued to utilize an improvisational workshop setting in the development of some of her plays.

Her first play to receive wide notice was Cloud Nine (1979), set partly in a British Colony in the Victorian era, which examines the relationships involved in colonization, and utilizes cross-gender casting for comic and instructive effect.

In time Churchill's writing became less and less inhibited by realism, and the feminist themes were also developed. Top Girls (1982) has an all-female cast, and focusses on Marlene, who has sacrificed a home and family life to achieve success in the world of business. Half the action takes place at a celebratory dinner where Marlene mixes with historical and fictional women who achieved success in a man's world, but always at some cost. In The Skriker (1994), Churchill utilizes an associative dream logic which some critics found to be nonsensical. The play, a visionary exploration of modern urban life, follows the Skriker, a kind of northern goblin, in its search for love and revenge as it pursues two young women to London, changing its shape at every new encounter.

Serious Money (1987) is a verse play that takes a satirical look at the stock market, and received enormous acclaim, partly because it played immediately after the stock market crash of 1987.

Her 2002 play, A Number, addresses the subject of human cloning.

Churchill also wrote television plays for the BBC, and those and some of her radio plays were later adapted for the stage.

This is a list of Churchill's plays originally written for the stage. The dates are the date of first performance or first publication, whichever is earlier.

  • Downstairs (1958)
  • Having a Wonderful Time (1960)
  • Owners (1972)
  • Objections to Sex and Violence (1975)
  • Light Shining in Buckinghamshire (1976)
  • Vinegar Tom (1976)
  • Traps (1977)
  • Cloud Nine (1979)
  • Top Girls (1982)
  • Fen (1983)
  • Softcops (1984)
  • A Mouthful of Birds (1986)
  • Serious Money (1987)
  • Ice Cream (1989)
  • Mad Forrest: A Play from Romania (1990)
  • Lives of Great Poisoners (1991)
  • The Skriker (1994)
  • Blue Heart (1997)
  • Hotel (1997)
  • This is a Chair (1999)
  • Far Away (2000)
  • Thyestes (2001) - translation of Seneca's play
  • A Number (2002)

External Links:

Biography (from comtemporarywriters.com)

Fuller list of works, including radio and TV, with summaries




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