Christopher Fry



  • (Christopher Harris; 1907 - 2005) British playwright, aleading exponent of poetic drama in the late 1940s and early1950s. "Poetry," Fry said, "is the language by whichman explores his own amazement."

    His first play, The Boy with a Cart, retold the storyof St Cuthbert: it was given an amateur performance in 1937 and receivedits first professional production 12 years later at the Lyric Theatre,Hammersmith, starring Richard Burton.

    In 1940 he became director of the Oxford Playhouseand in 1946 enjoyed his first success as a dramatist with the one-actfantasy A Phoenix Too Frequent. Hope for a revival of poeticdrama came with the popular success of Fry's The Lady's Not ForBurning, which opened in 1948 at the Arts Theatre, and latertransferred to the Globe; it starred John Gielgud,Pamela Brown, Richard Burton, and Claire Bloom. Burton'saudition was so stumbling and confused that he had to be given a secondchance to calm his nerves. The work opened in New York in 1950.

    The same year saw the premiere of Fry's tragicomedy VenusObserved; this was a work written for Laurence Olivier, who starredas the Duke of Altair, an astronomer who learns that his son is hisrival in love. A Sleep of Prisoners (1951) questioned the needfor war through its story of four soldiers sheltering in a bombedchurch in enemy territory. It was first seen at the University Church in Oxford and later staged at churches in London and New York (with a Britishcast).

    In 1954 The Dark Is Light Enough ("Or TheLight is Dark Enough," mused Noël Coward. "Itcomes to the same thing.") was less successful, despite theoutstanding performance of Edith Evans. In the later 1950s the trendturned in favour of the kitchen sink dramas of John Osborneand others and Fry's reputation went into a decline from which ithas never fully recovered. His 1961 drama Curtmantle, aboutHenry II and Becket, opened in Tilburg, The Netherlands, in Dutch,before being produced, rather unsuccessfully, by the RSC in Londona year later. A Yard of Sun was produced at the NottinghamPlayhouse in 1970 before transferring to London for a week's run.Later works included translations and screenplays.