Sir Peter Shaffer



  • (1926 - ) British dramatist, who has said that a greatplay must come "bolting out like rabbits out of the hedge".A native of Leeds, Shaffer served as a 'Bevin Boy' during World War II and worked as a librarian and a publisher's assistant before beginning to write for the stage. His brilliant first play Five Finger Exercise, directedby Gielgud at the Comedy Theatre in 1958, ran for 607 performances; this was followed by further success with two one-act plays billed together, The Private Ear and The Public Eye (1962). In another one-act play, the brilliant Black Comedy (1965), the characters behave as if they are in a totally dark room (although the stage is lit as normal).

    In 1964 Shaffer's epic tragedy The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1964)gave the National Theatre Company its first triumph with a contemporary work.In this play, set in Peru following the arrival of the conquistadors, Shafferbegan to explore his characteristic themes of reason versus faith and greatnessversus mediocrity. The National Theatre also staged the two plays that areprobably Shaffer's best-known works: Equus (1973) and Amadeus(1979). His subsequent plays include the comedy Lettice and Lovage,which opened in 1987 with Maggie Smith, and The Gift of The Gorgon(1992).

    Shaffer collaborated with his twin brother, Anthony Shaffer(1926 - 2001), on three detective books in the early 1950s. Anthonyfound success with his first play, Sleuth (1970), and wroteother stage thrillers, such as Murderer (1975).