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Christopher Hampton (Christopher James Hampton) Biography

(1946– ), (Christopher James Hampton), When Did You Last See My Mother?, Total Eclipse, The Philanthropist, Savages

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British dramatist, born in the Azores; he lived as a child in Aden and Egypt, was educated at Oxford University, and was still an undergraduate when his first play, When Did You Last See My Mother? (1964), was performed at the Royal Court Theatre in London. His subsequent work has included Total Eclipse (1968), about the relationship between Rimbaud and Verlaine; The Philanthropist (1970), about a well-meaning, self-doubting lecturer, temperamentally opposite to Molière's ‘misanthrope’, who vestigially inhabits a university itself detached from a Britain in which the Cabinet is slaughtered and writers are being picked off by terrorists; Savages (1973), about European atrocities against native Indian tribes and, more specifically, a British diplomat held hostage by South American revolutionaries; Tales from Hollywood (1982), about Brecht, Thomas and Heinrich Mann, and other European exiles in wartime California, most of them working for a philistine film industry; and White Chameleon (1991), a semi-autobiographical piece about an English boy who grows up in the troubled Egypt of the 1950s, and finds himself alienated from his compatriots when he is sent to school back home; and Alice's Adventures Under Ground (1994), a portrait of the troubled Charles Dodgson and the fantasy life he revealed under the guise of Lewis Carroll. Hampton's plays have been highly praised for their technical competence and for their warmth, gentle humour, and quiet, unpretentious humanity. He also wrote the book for Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, Sunset Boulevard (1993), and has made many translations and adaptations, notably versions of Horvath's Tales from the Vienna Woods (1977), George Steiner's The Portage to San Cristobal of A. H. (1982), Laclos's Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1985), and several plays by Ibsen.

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