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Brenton, Howard

Entry updated 28 July 2022. Tagged: Author, Theatre.

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(1942-    ) UK screenwriter and playwright, active from the late 1960s, his dramas often being Satires focused on social, economic and political issues in the UK, frequently conveyed through estranged pantomime routines as evolved from Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956), some of whose plays he has adapted for British performance. Singletons of sf interest include The Churchill Play: As it will Be Performed in the Winter of 1984 by the Internees of Churchill Camp Somewhere in England (first performed 1974; 1980 chap), featuring a play within a play performed by members of the opposition interned in a coercive Keep known as Churchill Camp: the performed play, during the course of which a vision of Churchill is resurrected, describes an authoritarian Near Future Dystopian Britain in detail.

Brenton's Utopia series is a trilogy with thematic links but without continuing characters. The violent marital disputes that begin Sore Throats (performed 1978; in Sore Throats & Sonnets of Love and Opposition 1979) are rather crudely transfigured during the second act into gestures aspirational of some Utopian outcome to the nightmare of contemporary life. Bloody Poetry (performed 1984; 1988 chap) is constructed as a dramatic symposium involving Lord Byron, Claire Clairmont, Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley, bringing into something like concord their various utopian aspirations, mostly mediated through Percy Shelley's dramatic avowals of an ideal world creatable by us. The first half of Greenland (performed 1988; 1988 chap) is set in contemporary London as an election looms and dreams of a better life are expounded, during scenes of violence; the second half, set 700 years into the future, unpacks some of the consequences of a backboneless libertarian "governance" of the world. [JC]

Howard John Brenton

born Portsmouth, Hampshire: 13 December 1942

works (highly selected)



  • Sore Throats & Sonnets of Love and Opposition (London: Methuen, 1979) [plays: omni: Sore Throats first performed 1978 Donmar Warehouse Theatre, London: in the publisher's New Theatrescripts series: Utopia: pb/]
  • Bloody Poetry (London: Methuen, 1988) [play: chap: first performed 1 October 1984 Haymarket Theatre, London: in the publisher's Royal Court Writers series: Utopia: pb/]
  • Greenland (London: Methuen, 1988) [play: chap: first performed 26 May 1988 Royal Court Theatre, London: in the publisher's Royal Court Writers series: Utopia: pb/nonpictorial]

individual titles


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