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Steven Berkoff Biography

(1937– ), The Penal Colony, Metamorphosis, The Trial, Agamemnon, Fall of the House of Usher, Salome, East

london class plays include

British dramatist, born in London, educated at Hackney Downs Grammar School; he studied mime at the École Jacques Le Coq, Paris, finished his training for the stage at the Webber-Douglas Academy in London, and has since frequently appeared in adaptations and original plays written by himself. His work has always been notable for the opportunities it offers actors for bravura physical invention. It has also been marked by verbal daring, often comprising parodic poetic effects, and by a fierce anti-establishment thrust. His dramatic versions of other people's writings include Kafka's The Penal Colony (1968), Metamorphosis (1969), and The Trial (1971); Aeschylus's Agamemnon (1973); Poe's Fall of the House of Usher (1974); and Wilde's Salome (1989). His own plays include exotic portraits of contemporary London, East (1975) and West (1983); Greek (1979), a raucous satire of the Oedipus story; Decadence (1981), a bitter and scathing portrait of English social divisions as represented by an arrogant, gourmandizing upper-class lout and the working-class man he effortlessly intimidates; and Kvetch (1986), which switches from dialogue to aside in what becomes a feverish exposure of the fears, frustrations, and tensions beneath the surface of conventional lower middle-class life; One Man (1993), a trio of solo plays including one which memorably permitted Berkoff to embody both a yobbish East Ender and his dog; and Brighton Beach Scumbags (1994), about the doleful joys of a group of friends at a seaside resort.

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