John Arden

Definition

Theater

  • (1930 - ) British dramatist, noted for hispolitically challenging and linguistically rich plays in the traditionof Brecht; he has written for radio and television as well as forthe stage. After 1965 he collaborated on many works with his wife, the Irishplaywright Margaretta D'Arcy.

    Arden's first professionally produced play was a radio drama,The Life of Man, broadcast in 1956. In the late 1950s Ardenwas associated with the Royal Court Theatre, where his starkanti-war play Serjeant Musgrave's Dance opened in 1959. Theplay was something of a commercial failure at the time, but has beenfrequently revived since. It was during the 1960s that Arden producedmost of his major stage works; these include The Happy Haven(1960), The Workhouse Donkey (1963), which concerns municipalcorruption in Arden's native Barnsley, Armstrong's Last Goodnight(1964), which drew parallels between contemporary political eventsin the Congo and machinations in medieval Scotland, and Left-HandedLiberty (1965).

    In 1972 Arden and D'Arcy had a major argument with the RSCabout the staging of their Arthurian play The Island of the Mighty.The argument culminated in Arden picketing the theater and vowingthat he would not write for the British stage again. Although he hassince written plays for both the radio and the stage, he has not returnedto the theatrical mainstream. Many of his plays of the 1970s are didacticallyMarxist in character. In the 1980s he began a second career as a novelist.see also longest plays.

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