Howard Brenton



  • (1942 - ) British dramatist, noted for his controversial political plays of the 1970s and 1980s. The son of a police constable turned Methodist minister, Brenton originally intended to become an archaeologist but began to write plays during his time at Cambridge University. His first full-length play to be professionally produced was Revenge, staged at the Royal Court Theatre in 1969. He became resident dramatist at the Royal Court in 1972, following on from David Hare. Brenton and Hare collaborated on the writing of Brassneck in 1973. Othersignificant plays from this period include The Churchill Play(1973), a fierce attack on the cult of the wartime leader, and EpsomDowns (1977), which uses the occasion of Derby Day to presenta critical panorama of British society.

    In 1980 Brenton found himself at the centre of a major controversywhen his play The Romans in Britain opened at the NationalTheatre. The play, in which the British role in Northern Ireland iscompared to the Roman occupation of Britain, caused outrage, largelyas a result of a scene featuring a male rape. In 1985 Brenton collaboratedagain with Hare on Pravda, a boisterous satire on the tabloidpress, which opened at the National Theatre with Anthony Hopkinsin the leading role of Lambert La Roux, a megalomaniac tycoon. His work of the 1990s, which was mainly low-profile, included Berlin Bertie (1992) and a series of topical satires written with Tariq Ali. More recently, he returned to the National with Paul (2005), a controversial examination of St Paul's role in the formation of Christian doctrine, and Never So Good (2008), a surprisingly sympathetic portrait of the Tory prime minister Harold Macmillan. In Extremis, a retelling of the Abelard and Heloïse story, was staged at Shakespeare's Globe in 2006. Brenton is currently (2010) working on a play about Ann Boleyn for the same venue. Work for television includes episodes of the glossy spy drama Spooks (2002 - 2006).Brenton has also made several translations for the stage, including Brecht's Galileo and Büchner's Danton's Death.