Joe Penhall

Definition

Theater

  • (1967 - ) British playwright and screenwriter, noted for his sardonic comedies. Penhall was born in London but spent much of his youth in Australia, where he attended the University of Adelaide. Having worked for some years as a news reporter, he achieved his first success in the theater with Some Voices, which was staged as part of the Royal Court's celebrated New Writing season in 1994. The play, which won high praise from the critics, is a gritty but often very funny piece about Ray, a young schizophrenic released from a mental hospital into the care of his family. This was followed by Pale Horse (1995), a dark comedy about death and bereavement, and Love and Understanding (1997), about a sociopathic sponger and the strait-laced young couple he exploits; the latter transferred to New York and has also proved extremely successful in Europe. Penhall then enjoyed the best notices of his career with Blue/Orange, which wasstaged at the National's Cottesloe Theatre in 2000. The play explores questions of sanity, racism, and cultural difference through the three-way relationship between Chris, a young Black man who claims to be the son of Idi Amin and to see oranges as blue, and the two very different psychiatrists dealing with his case. This "huge dark play" (as Penhall has described it) earned the Laurence Olivier and Evening Standard awards and went on to enjoy a run in the West End. Penhall's most recent stage plays are Dumb Show (2004), a mordant satire on the tabloid press and modern celebrity culture, and Landscape with Weapon (2007), which explores the moral dilemmas of a scientist who finds that his invention has potentially devastating military uses. He has also been in demand as a screenwriter, adapting Ian McEwan's Enduring Love (2004) and Cormac McCarthy's harrowing The Road (2009) as well as his own Some Voices (2000).
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