Roy Williams



  • (1968 - ) British playwright, noted for his fearless approach to racial issues and his use of contemporary urban patois. The son of Jamaican immigrants, Williams was born in London and brought up by his mother, a nurse. After leaving school at 16 he spent nearly a decade working in dead-end jobs while trying to become an actor. When this culminated in a role as a rapist in a Crimewatch reconstruction, Williams signed up for a play-writing course at a London college. Remarkably, the play he wroteto complete this, No Boys Cricket Club (1996), was accepted by the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, where it became an immediate hit and earned Williams the Writers' Guild New Writer of the Year Award. The play, in which a middle-aged woman looks back on her teenage years in 1950s Jamaica, was based loosely on the life of his own mother.

    After the success of Starstruck (1998), another play about his parents' generation, Williams began to focus on contemporary issues with Lift Off (1999), a piece about the pressures affecting the friendship of two boys, one Black and one White. The pitfalls of interracial relationships are also explored in Clubland (2001), an award-winning play set in the dance clubs of South London. A year later the National Theatre staged the play that would become Williams's best-known work, Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads (2002): set in a pub during an England v. Germany football match, the play explores White working-class attitudes and ends with a shocking act of violence. More controversially, Fallout (2003), a play based partly on the Damilola Taylor murder case, dealt with Black-on-Black violence and contemporary gang culture. Williams has since kept up a prolific work rate, with no less than seven new works in 2007 alone. Of these much the most important was the RSC's Days of Significance (2007), another dissection of White working-class culture that switches from scenes of binge-drinking in an English market town to the battlefields of Iraq. Williams's subsequent work has includedAngel House (2008), an ambitious family drama reflecting the changes in British society over 30 years, and Sucker Punch (2010), a play set in a boxing gym.

    There was a big thing about whether to be called a Black playwright, andI thought, Do what you like, just don't miss out the word playwright!
    Ray Williams