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Caryl Churchill Biography

(1938– ), Owners, Objections to Sex and Violence, Light Shining in Buckinghamshire, Vinegar Tom, Cloud Nine

British playwright, born in London, educated in Canada and at Oxford University. She first attracted critical notice with Owners (1972), a sardonic comedy about the effects of property and profiteering on personal relationships. This was followed by Objections to Sex and Violence (1975), an exploration of the subjects of the title; Light Shining in Buckinghamshire (1975), about radical politics in the Cromwellian era; Vinegar Tom (1976), about the witchhunts and misogyny of the same era; and Cloud Nine (1979), a serio-comedy which moves from the colonies in Victorian times to contemporary London, and requires some of its actors to embody more than one gender as well as more than one character, by way of debating the uncertainties and confusions of sexuality. The impressive Top Girls (1982) opens with a surreal dinner party, hosted by the high-achieving managing director of a secretarial agency, Marlene, whose guests include exemplary women from history and legend, but in the realistic second half some harsh suggestions are made about the nature of women's ‘liberation’, Thatcherism, and the ‘enterprise culture’ of the 1980s. There followed Fen (1983), a portrait of a troubled rural community in East Anglia, and researched by the author in conjunction with the Joint Stock Company, which presented it; Serious Money (1987), a Jonsonian comedy of humours about financial practice and malpractice in the City of London; Mad Forest (1990), the result of field trips to Romania with drama students, and about that country before, during, and after the uprising against Ceausescu; and The Skriker (1994), a highly visual piece in which creatures from fairytales and folklore invade the lives of two working-class girls. Caryl Churchill is a socialist and a feminist, but her best plays are notable for their intelligent and openminded exploration of social, political, and moral issues, as well as for their stylistic inventiveness.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Cheltenham Gloucestershire to Cockermouth Cumbria