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Ronald Harwood Biography

(1934– ), Country Matters, The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, A Family, The Dresser, Tramway Road, Interpreters

donald cape play town

South African playwright and novelist, born and educated in Cape Town; he trained for the stage at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London. A prolific playwright, his first plays, Country Matters (1969, an adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold (1977)%thin;) and A Family (1978), were followed by his best-known play, The Dresser (1980), a picture of life behind the scenes with an actor based on Sir Donald Wolfit, with whom Harwood had worked in his youth. Among his later plays are Tramway Road (1984), set in the Cape Town of the 1950s, about an aspiring young actor whose hopes are shattered through his ‘mixed-race’ origins; Interpreters (1985), a romantic comedy with political overtones, about an English translator of Russian descent and a passionate Russian delegate; Another Time (1987), about a musician who grows up in South Africa and moves to London; Poison Pen (1994), involving the still-unexplained death of the critic Philip Heseltine, alias the composer Peter Warlock; and Taking Sides (1995), about the accusations of Nazism directed, in Harwood's view unjustly, at the conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler. At his best, as when he raises the relationship of art and politics in this last play, Harwood combines an interest in ideas with well-observed realism. Harwood has also written several novels, including César and Augusta (1978), about the French composer César Franck, and a biography of Sir Donald Wolfit, CBE (1971).

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