Influential British Playwrights

Britain has developed a very strong tradition of creating wonderful playwrights who are masters of their art. Without great playwrights to provide the story, we would be unable to create stunning theatrical performances. It is therefore important to take the time to celebrate the best playwrights from Britain so let’s take a quick look at some of the greatest British playwrights:

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was born in 1564 and wrote plays which were performed in Elizabethan England. Although many of his stories are not original tales, Shakespeare’s use of witty language and colourful metaphors has helped his plays to enjoy enduring appeal. In order to keep Elizabethan audiences interested, most of his plays involve twists, turns, blood, guts and humour. His surviving works include 38 plays and hundreds of poem. His plays are regularly reimagined and can be transposed into various different locations or time periods. They have also been translated into every major world language.

Read more about William Shakespeare on Biography.com.

Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe was a contemporary of William Shakespeare who is believed to have had an influence on Shakespeare’s own works. Some contemporary academics theorise that Marlowe may have been responsible for some of the works that are attributed to Shakespeare. Marlowe’s career was cut short after he was stabbed to death for unknown reasons by Ingram Frizer. Shakespeare paid tribute to Marlowe in his play, As You Like It.

A good site for in-depth information on Christopher Marlowe can be reached here.

Tom Stoppard

Although Tom Stoppard is Czech by birth, he spent much of his childhood in the UK and went to school in the North of England. He developed a unique style of writing which became known as Stoppardian style. This style blended wit and humour with deep philosophical questions. One of his most famous plays, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, was based on the two minor characters from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The play discusses how Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are powerless to control their own fate, as they are caught up in a series of decisions and events that are taking place off stage.

Take a look at the Wikipedia page on Tom Stoppard for much more information.

Caryl Churchill

Caryl Churchill is an English dramatist and activist who is best known for her feminist plays. She has created pieces for the stage, the radio, and for film and television. When she graduated from Oxford University, she was aware that the playwright scene was largely dominated by male playwrights who were only writing about male experiences. Her works helped to create an important female perspective in the theatre and the UK performing arts scene. Her contributions to theatre helped to highlight gender inequalities around the globe and have helped to bring about societal change.

More about Caryl Churchill can be found here on Biography.com.

Alan Bennett

Alan Bennett is well-known for approaching hard-hitting issues with gentle humour. In his plays and books, he regularly draws on his experiences of growing up in a working class area of Northern England. Bennett’s work is often considered to be very relatable, because Bennett places so much of his own experiences into the experiences of the characters that he is writing about.

More about Alan Bennett can be found here.

Harold Pinter

Harold Pinter was born in Hackney during the interwar period. His experiences of the blitz and his subsequent evacuation to Cornwall helped to shape his unique writing style.

Although he initially sought to make his name as an actor, he eventually found fame as a playwright. His works were performed on the stage and radio. His early plays were often described as “comedy of menace”, whereby seemingly innocuous situations become absurdly threatening throughout the course of the narrative. He later turned his talents to political plays and sketches which were designed to highlight the absurd abuses of power that he perceived to be happening around the world.

We highly recommend visiting HaroldPinter.org for likely everything you want to know about Harold Pinter.

Kwame Kwei Armah

Kwame was initially named Ian Roberts by his family, but he changed his name after tracing his ancestral African heritage. During his childhood, he witnessed episodes of racially-motivated violence and increasing racial tension in his local area. He has drawn on his experiences to create a number of plays and scripts which discuss major issues that affect non-white citizens of the UK. His early works earned him a number of theatre and performing arts awards. Kwame is currently a patron of the Shakespeare Schools Festival, which seeks to give British school children the opportunity to perform Shakespeare plays in professional theatre settings.

Wikipedia page on Kwame Kwei Armah can be read here.