Christopher Hampton

Definition

Theater

  • (1946 - ) British playwright and screenwriter, noted especially for his numerous translations and adaptations. The son of an engineer, Hampton spent much of his childhood in the Middle East; the family's precipitous flight from Egypt during the Suez Crisis provides the background to his semiautobiographical play White Chameleon (1991).

    Hampton's writing career got off to a flying start when his first play, When Did You Last See Your Mother? (1964), was staged at the Royal Courtwhile he was still at Oxford. The play, a coming-of-age drama set at a public school, soon transferred to the Comedy Theatre, making Hampton, at 18, the youngest writer ever to have a play produced in the West End. Hampton went on to become writer-in-residence at the Royal Court, which produced his next four plays; these included The Philanthropist (1969), a riposte to Moliére's The Misanthrope that brought him commercial success in both London and New York, and Savages (1973), an atypically political piece about the genocide of Brazilian Indians.

    After a period spent in Hollywood, Hampton returned to the stage with Tales from Hollywood (1982), about the clash of cultures arising when Brecht, Thomas Mann, and other exiled European writers met the US film industry. The play is usually considered Hampton's best original piece. It was followed by the work for which he is best known, a spectacular adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1985), the epistolary novel of sexual intrigue by Choderlos de Laclos. This RSC production proved a huge success, as did the later film versionscripted by Hampton. Other works adapted or translated for the stage by Hampton include Ibsen's A Doll's House (1971), George Steiner's novella The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H. (1982), Yasmina Reza's big hit Art(1996), and Embers (2006), from the novel by Sándor Márai.A prolific screenwriter, Hampton has also provided the words for a number of musical productions, ranging from Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard (1993)to Philip Glass's Waiting for the Barbarians (2005). His only original stage play in recent years has been The Talking Cure (2002), about the difficult relationship between Freud and Jung.

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