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Howard Barker Biography

(1946– ), Claw, Stripwell, That Good between Us, The Hang of the Gaol, Fair Slaughter

British dramatist, born in London, educated at Sussex University. His first substantial works were Claw (1975), about a petty criminal exploited and finally eliminated by a corrupt establishment, and Stripwell (1975), in which it is the representative of authority, a self-doubting judge, who ends up killed, this time by a vengeful sociopath. These plays, which can be compared with those of Howard Brenton and David Hare, have been followed by others equally combative in their social criticism but more darkly comic in tone and increasingly exotic in their language and form. Some, notably That Good between Us (1977) and The Hang of the Gaol (1978), offer somewhat nightmarish visions of political oppression in a Britain of the near future. Other plays include Fair Slaughter (1977); The Loud Boy's Life (1980); No End of Blame (1981), about the growing despair of a radical cartoonist; Victory (1983), about corruption and persecution after the restoration of Charles II; The Power of the Dog (1984); The Castle (1985); Seven Lears (1989); The Europeans (1993); and Hated Nightfall (1994). Barker's Scenes from an Execution, which involves the repression of a heterodox woman painter in imperial Venice, and raises questions about censorship and artistic freedom, was broadcast on radio in 1984 and staged in 1990. He has also written for television, and made a modern stage adaptation of Middleton's Women Beware Women (1986).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Houston A. Baker (Houston Alfred to Sally Beauman Biography