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Churchill, Caryl

Entry updated 26 October 2021. Tagged: Author.

(1938-    ) UK playwright, active and prolific from 1958, around forty of whose plays have been professionally presented on Radio, Television and the stage (see Theatre). Though much of her work, as typical in the Theatre, makes metaphorized use of fantasy topoi, several of her many dramas can be experienced in terms of literal Fantastika. Moving Clocks Go Slow (performed 1975) is set in the Near Future, after decades of Ecological degradation has caused worldwide starvation. Act one of Cloud 9 (performed 1979; 1979), set in 1870, features a cast of Imperial Britons serving in Africa; in act two, almost a century later, caught in a kind of Time Distortion, the cast has aged only twenty-five years, and has learned nothing; Doppelgangers appear. Crimes (broadcast 1982 BBC) is set in a Near Future Dystopian Britain in which the countryside is forbidden to city dwellers. In Top Girls (performed 1982; 1982), the managing director of the eponymous employment agency invites to lunch five women she admires, from various times and levels of reality (the Time Travel involved is implicit). The protagonist of Seagulls (in Shorts, coll 1990) find that her Psi Power, which is Telekinesis, is fading. The Skriker (performed 1994; 1994) features chthonic figures in a dance pantomime which adumbrates the fate of the world to come. In the surreal setting of Far Away (performed 2000; 2000) a Future War is being conducted with the use of animals as Climate Change devastates the planet. A Number (performed 2002; 2002) unpacks a indefinite number of Clones whose lives come together after two of them have been killed, and who, in the process of attempting to reknit their fractured sense of Identity, meet the father of them all; a television version appeared later (broadcast 2008 BBC). Escaped Alone (performed 2016; 2016) is a conversation piece featuring four women, one of whom describes their world in terms of catastrophes that may have already happened. Brechtian estrangement effects and dislocating Time Distortions are explored through her career; several plays, like The Skriker above, are conducted in dance. Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp (four short plays performed 2019; coll 2019 chap) all – especially the last two – interrogate the fantastic; Imp features a girl made of glass facing child abuse. Churchill is a central figure in contemporary British theatre. [JC]

Caryl Churchill

born London: 3 September 1938

works (selected)

  • Moving Clocks Go Slow [play: first performed 1975 Royal Court Theatre Upstairs]
  • Cloud 9 (London: Pluto Press, 1979) [play: first performed 14 February 1979 Dartington College of Arts, Devon: pb/]
  • Crimes [teleplay: first broadcast 1982 BBC]
  • Top Girls (London: Methuen Drama, 1982) [play: first performed 28 August 1982 Royal Court Theatre, London: pb/]
  • Seagulls, in Shorts (London: Nick Hern Books, 1990) [play: coll: pb/]
  • The Skriker (London: Nick Hern Books, 1994) [play: first performed 20 January 1994 Cottesloe Theatre, National Theatre, London: pb/]
  • Far Away (London: Nick Hern Books, 2000) [play: first performed November 2000 Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London: pb/]
  • A Number (London: Nick Hern Books, 2002) [play: first performed 23 September 2002 Royal Court Theatre Downstairs, London: pb/]
  • Love and Information (London: Nick Hern Books, 2012) [play: first performed 6 September 2012 Royal Court Theatre Downstairs, London: pb/]
  • Escaped Alone (London: Nick Hern Books, 2016) [play: first performed 21 January 2016 Royal Court Theatre Downstairs, London: pb/]
  • Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp (London: Nick Hern Books, 2019) [play: coll: chap: four short plays first performed 26 September 2019 Royal Court Theatre Downstairs, London: pb/]


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